Differdange is growing
Social housing at the heart of policy
Nestling right at the heart of the forest, and located close to the Belgian and French borders, Differdange has a lot to offer that will please very many people, both residents and businesses. With a large number of development projects implemented last year and currently underway, the ‘Iron city’ has been experiencing a new momentum.
For several years, Differdange has managed to take some bold decisions to lift itself out of its industrial past, and create for its commune distributed over the various localities of Differdange, its capital, Oberkorn, with the “Fousbann” district, Niederkorn, Lasauvage and Fond-de-Gras, a territory that is highly valued by its residents, businesses and the universities. The town is rightly ranked third in the country. At all levels – property, social, cultural, sports, and commercial, the commune is working to nurture the quality of life of its (future) inhabitants.
In October 2014, the college of aldermen took the momentous, but wise decision, to prohibit the destruction of any single family home in the residential district. “The objective was to provide a living environment for our residents while controlling population growth, and to avoid box-style construction. This has worked, as new families are finding houses to buy here”, explains the deputy mayor, Roberto Traversini.
Furthermore, the property agency Sociale Kordall has enabled the leasing of 55 vacant residences and 10 more are in the pipeline. “Created by the communes of the Bassin de la Chiers, Differdange, Käerjeng, Pétange and Sanem, the agency draws up a schedule of condition of the vacant accommodation, then negotiates the rent and the guarantees with the owner and places the property on the market at affordable prices: between 6 and 10 euros/m2 for lease agreements that may run for up to three years, with couples, single parents or young people being selected on the basis of recommendations made by the social departments of the four communes”. The policy of Differdange also remains focused on a social and cultural mix, (over 50% of the population is foreign). “Social housing represents 8 to 10% of the accommodation that is made available”.
Three projects are currently underway with the Fonds du Logement [housing fund]: apartments for older citizens in place des Alliés, 74 residences for sale in Grand-rue, and apartments for young people and students, in place Jehan Steichen. A special planning scheme (PAP), created with the SNHBM [National society for affordable housing], has been given approval in route de Pétange in Niederkorn, amounting to 36 individual family houses and 24 apartments, with the project launched between now and end 2017 – early 2018. “Similarly, private developers are investing a great deal in the commune. Projects are underway in Fousbann, Wuelemswiss new districts, or Cité O, Arboria and its Tour Aurea in Differdange-Centre or Mathendahl in Niederkorn, just to mention the largest of these. A very diverse cocktail for all tastes, increasing the population by 2 to 3 per cent each year”.
Another innovative idea: the commune has negotiated, via an emphyteutic lease, the construction of 9 affordable apartments by a private property developer. “The properties are then leased to AIS Kordall which manages their operation with the social department and guarantees the rentals. In addition, the project will be implemented using natural and recyclable materials”.
“We have been able to develop significant infrastructures to improve the living environment of our inhabitants. In April 2016, LU:NEX, the Université internationale de la santé de l’éducation physique et du sport [international University for Sport and Health], was inaugurated, followed by EIDD [Differdange International School] for the new 2016-2017 academic year, the first public, free international school in Luxembourg. “We currently have 140 students at LU:NEX, but we hope to welcome 800 over the coming years. We are in the process of building a secondary and primary preparatory school with the State, and investing in two maisons relais [school childcare facilities] and in our sports and leisure equipment and facilities”. We are currently considering the construction of an advanced level sports training school. OPKORN, the new shopping centre will open at the end of 2017. “All of this also generates employment, such as with 1535°C, which was really successful: 408 people work there in the 7000 m2 that have been occupied. For the remaining 10,000 m2, we already have a list of applications from 386 companies, particularly in the creative economy sector, from Dubaï, Japan, and the United States, etc.”.
In terms of mobility, road works are under way: the bypassing of the Fousbann district between the Entrée en Ville/Town Entrance Gate and the Woiwer gate, which has been 15 years in coming, and at the Entrée en Ville “We are replacing the roundabout with an enlarged crossroads with gyratory traffic lights”. Similarly, a large number of cycle zones (cycle lanes, bicycle parking and electric bicycle hire) have been created in order to encourage soft mobility. The Diffbus will be a world first. “From 1 May, the fleet will be completely replaced by 100% electric busses. A new line will be added so that all the districts are served from Monday to Saturday from 6:00 to 19:00”. This will also help people who want to go to one of the four railway stations in the commune, where there will also be a new bus stop, which is being planned for Fousbann. Differdange clearly has a very positive dynamic looking towards 2020 and for the years after that.
Emilie Di Vincenzo