Situated in Eupen in the Belgian province of Liège, close to the German and Dutch borders, NOSBAU is a public utility housing cooperative currently managing more than 1,600 apartments in nine communities, including four German-speaking and five French-speaking ones.
The cooperative was formed in 2002 following the merger of two public housing enterprises. At the time of the merger, NOSBAU was responsible for 1,421 units.
“Since then, this figure has increased by 16% to 1,646,” says Managing Director Marc Xhonneux. “In the next three years, another 70 apartments will be added to our portfolio.”
NOSBAU employs 27 people, including several of its own craftsmen, and generates annual revenues of 7.2 million EUR. This year alone, it has invested 5.2 million EUR in renovation projects and energy-saving measures. In addition to managing and letting apartments, NOSBAU trades in real estate and offers property development services in the area of public power supply and sewage water systems.
Rather unusual for a public housing enterprise, NOSBAU runs its own hotel in Welkenraedt with ten comfortable rooms. “We are the only public housing cooperative in Wallonia with a hotel,” states Mr. Xhonneux. NOSBAU also has its own social worker supporting people in difficult situations.
With more than 5% of the housing market in its catchment area, NOSBAU is the strongest and most active housing cooperative in the region. This means, however, that opportunities for domestic expansion are limited. This is why NOSBAU is looking across the border to identify potential growth markets.
“Because the Belgian public housing market is very small, we plan to expand to neighbouring countries, starting in 2016,” explains Mr. Xhonneux. Besides internationalizing, the Belgian public housing enterprise aims to further enhance diversification by offering its know-how to private investors.
The growth strategy also includes building a housing information center. “This will be a place where all actors in the housing market, from architects, housing enterprises, real estate firms and construction companies, come together,” Mr. Xhonneux describes the ambitious project. “It will also include a show house with the technologies of the future.”
Last but not least, NOSBAU wants to manage apartments on behalf of other housing enterprises, both in the public and private sector, to develop its business.