What do Bob Marley, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, David Bowie, Kylie Minogue, U2, and Coldplay have in common? Aside from being phenomenal musicians, all of them have performed at one point at Forest National, one of Belgium’s prestigious concert halls. Every year, Forest welcomes big-time artists into its world-renowned, first-class entertainment venue. And that’s definitely an edge Forest has over the 18 other communes of Brussels.
The territory of Forest spans 6.25 square kilometers of which a large part is composed of nature. The parks of Abbé Froidure, Bempt, Duden, and Abbaye de Forest are just some of the loveliest features of the commune. Taking up the southwestern side of the Brussels region, Forest’s terrain stretches over the Senne Valley and ascends from west to east. Upper Forest bears a more residential and middle class ambiance while lower Forest is more industrial and proletarian in character.
Forest registered a total of 55,746 inhabitants in 2017. Thirty five percent of the population are non-Belgians among whom the most represented are the French. Moroccans come in second, followed by the Portuguese and the Italians.
The poorest of Forest’s residents are settled in the lower section of the commune which partially falls within the croissant pauvre or the impoverished areas of the Brussels region. In recent years, the number of Forestois living on social services has been steadily increasing while social housing remains in short supply. The commune can only provide 5 social housing units per 100 private households which is less than the average ratio in the region.
How has Forest evolved in the last six years? Major projects involved the renovation of the communal hall, the improvement of communal services, investments in schools and nurseries, and the revitalization of neighborhoods including Abbaye, Place Albert, and Wiels-sur-Senne. Significant efforts were also made to improve cleanliness and security. On the downside, critics point to additional taxes and inadequate response to social housing needs.
Members of the Socialist Party (PS) have been leading the local government of Forest since 2006. But in earlier years, the commune was dominated by social liberals belonging to DéFI (Democratic, Federalist, Independent), followed by liberals from the Reformist Movement (MR). After the 2012 elections in Forest, socialists shared the council majority with members of Ecolo, DéFI and sp.a (Socialist Party Differently) while members of MR and cdH (Humanist Democratic Center) formed the minority.
Will Forest remain a socialist bailiwick after the communal elections on October 14? Will MR or DéFI make a come- back? Or will Ecolo-Groen, cdH, or PTB outvote them all? May the best party win.