Communal Elections 2018: Spotlight on Ixelles

The multicultural heart of the Brussels region

Place Flagey, Matongé, Place du Luxembourg, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ixelles Ponds… These are just some of the good old familiar places that may come to mind when you think of Ixelles. The rich cultural flavors of these landmarks demonstrate the highly cosmopolitan nature of Brussels.

As of 2017, there were 86,244 people living in Ixelles making up seven percent of the total population of the Brussels-Capital Region. Of the 19 communes in the region, Ixelles lists the highest number of foreign residents belonging to more than 170 different nationalities. Nearly 50 percent of Ixelles’ population are non-Belgians with 36.8 percent coming from other countries of the European Union. French nationals are the most numerous in Ixelles, followed by the Italians, the Spaniards, and the Portuguese.

Ixelles is also home to the largest African community in Belgium. This population is concentrated in the neighborhood and commercial district of Matongé. In recent years, migrants from Latin America and Asia have joined the African community in Matongé, making it an important symbol of multiculturalism in Belgium.

In the Brussels region, Ixelles is the only commune that is geographically scattered. Located southeast of the region, it occupies an area of 6.34 square kilometers split up by Avenue Louise which belongs to the Brussels City commune.

The northeast of Ixelles runs through the districts of Matongé, Flagey-Malibran, and Ixelles Ponds. This area forms the commune’s nucleus in terms of population density, and cultural and economic activities. Ixelles’ westside includes Rue du Bailli and the neighborhoods within the triangle of Châtelain and Brugmann-Lepoutre. The southern end encompasses the Boondael and University districts where the ULB and VUB campuses are located. This section is the main center of university life in Brussels.

More than 70 percent of residential buildings in Ixelles are occupied by tenants. In general, renting an apartment or buying a house in Ixelles is more expensive than the average of housing costs in the Brussels region. The massive influx of economically advantaged international workers increases real estate pressures on the entire commune.

The population of Ixelles combines households from the upper, middle, and lower classes. Per capita income is higher and unemployment rate is lower in the commune compared to the regional level. Education is one of the highest sources of employment due to the presence of the two major universities. Commercial activities also provide plenty of job opportunities in the trade, business, transport, and hospitality sectors.

Ixelles is currently the stronghold of liberals from the Reformist Movement (MR), but it was governed by socialists before 2016. For the past six years, members of MR, the Socialist Party (PS), the Socialist Party Differently (sp.a), and DéFI (Democratic, Federalist, Independent) comprised the majority in Ixelles while Écolo and the Humanist Democratic Centre (cdH) represented the opposition.

More than 200 projects were launched by the local government in the past six years. Among them, programs to intensify security by increasing police visibility in critical areas like Matongé and Flagey, renovation projects in several neighborhoods, the adjustment of communal finances without additional taxes and lay-offs, the improvement of facilities and quality of education in various schools, and the creation of more daycare centers.

One of the major issues facing the commune concerns traffic and mobility in relation to the redevelopment of Chaussée d’Ixelles which began in May last year. The controversial project aims to transform the narrow and busy roadway into a zone reserved for pedestrians, bicycles, taxis, and buses. The renovation is foreseen to improve public transport circulation along Chaussée d’Ixelles, but it has earned the ire of car drivers who will have minimal access to the area once the project is completed.

Aside from mobility issues, residents of Ixelles also complain about the overall lack of cleanliness in certain parts of the commune. The local government has put in place a number of new waste disposal and clean-up schemes, including a schedule for digital waste collection, the distribution of more portable ashtrays, and additional vehicles for garbage pick-up.

For the communal elections this year, MR is running with the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld) and independent candidates under the mayor’s list or Liste de la Bourgmestre (LB). Socialists from PS and sp.a are launching a joint campaign while cdH is pushing the list Objectif XL with other local representatives. Ecolo will run as a single party, as will DéFI, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB*PVDA), and Volt Belgïe-Belgique.