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Strassen: a much sought-after place to live

On 20/07/2016
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Cosmopolitan city

Strassen : over 10 planning projects

Strassen occupies third place in the Grand-Duchy, behind Luxembourg-Ville and Larochette, in terms of nationalities. With a social policy that means that diversity is an enrichment, the Commune acts in favour of the unfailing integration and cohesion of the population. A strategic location where housing projects flourish, just a few kilometres from the centre of the Capital. An update with its burgomaster, Gaston Greilveldinger.

Gaston Greilveldinger, what is the primary asset of your Commune?

Strassen has experienced a real burgeoning since the 90s, benefiting from its ideal location at the intersect of the major road routes and 5 km from the centre of the Capital. It thus offers the convenience of an out of town residential zone. We are one of the smallest communes in the country in terms of surface area, with 10 km2, however, we continue to grow. People gravitate to Strassen! We must therefore adapt by providing more services in terms of medical, mobility, education and leisure provision. Increasingly, people opt to live in the communes on the edges of Luxembourg-Ville in order to achieve quality of life, and in particular this is true of foreigners. We have 100 different nationalities in our commune, which positions it at number three in the country in that respect. This cultural diversity is our primary enrichment: our entire policy revolves around this.

What is the composition of the population of Strassen?

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of residents increased by 43%, from 6005 to 8864 people, with a significant increase in those not from Luxembourg. There are currently 39% Luxembourgers, 14% French, 7.5% Portuguese, 6% Italian, 5.7% Belgian, and almost as many Germans, British and Spanish. The remainder are the other nationalities. Social cohesion, residential mobility and integration are amongst our main missions at all levels. Our policy must enable each and every one of us to flourish within our commune, regardless of age, gender or nationality.

How do you foster this cultural enrichment?

This is the aim of our DiverCité citizen action plan. We seek to forge a pluralist and egalitarian communal identity. The primary lever to which we need to give consideration is the state school system. This constitutes the essential condition in order to offer all students the same opportunities for success. In this, we need to envisage a new system of learning so that students with a mother tongue other than Luxembourgish are not disadvantaged. I would like to lend my support to the organisation of Francophone and Anglophone literacy classes. The objective would be to enable these children to learn Luxembourgish from the starting point of their mother tongue. In general, we need to align our school and learning infrastructures with the sustained development of Strassen. 660 students attend school and 600 attend the maisons relais [pre-/post- school childcare facility]. This means that almost all our students attend the maisons relais …

This change requires constant readjustment of all your infrastructures…

Indeed. In the sphere of leisure activities, the Les Thermes centre, built in collaboration with Bertrange, is extremely well attended. This aquatic centre has 1000 users a day, of whom 300 use the sauna. This success warrants that we expand our wellness provision to continue in our position as front runners. For the very young, the commune has created over 70 play areas. As for sports, Strassen is proud of its teams. Whether in volleyball, football, shooting or karate, we are represented amongst best teams in the country. Our shooting gallery is the largest in Europe and 75 metres long, and the Guillaume Tel is the only club in Luxembourg that sends its sportsmen and women to the Olympic Games. We are in the process of building, in partnership with the Ministry for Sports and the FLAM federation, the future Centre National du Karaté, which will combine all the martial arts under the same roof.

And how about the cultural provision?

In 2001, we put in place two major events that enjoy an excellent reception from the local and international population. The Biennale d’Art Contemporain [Contemporary Art Biennale], which has the reputation of having the highest value prize in the Grand Duchy, has experienced considerable international success. Artists from Berlin and Paris submit their candidature portfolios. The Stroossefestival is attended by 6000 people. To these events are added various exhibitions and the Kufika, cultural spectacles and events for children. Since April, café Babel has enabled people from all walks of life to meet and exchange views in the language of their choice. Our cultural policy is at the heart of our concerns, because we have a very diverse, cosmopolitan population. It is therefore important to unite our residents around places and events conducive to contact.

How do you justify the price per m2, i.e. 6000 euros on average for a new apartment?

It follows from the proximity to the Ville de Luxembourg, the quality of life that we offer to prospective buyers, in particular a green setting, and the constant pressure we experience on the price of property. 101 social housing units, or 12 projects have been implemented by the commune since 2000 and are still on-going. They relate just as much to social leasing as to sale. We propose to make land available free of charge to future buyers for 99 years through an emphyteutic/long-term lease. I would also like to see the successful realisation of a project that is close to my heart that would consist of putting in place a lease-purchase scheme for housing. This formula is a mixed contract combining both lease and sale. The aim is to enable the lessee to become the owner of the property without personal investment or the need for a major loan. The rental paid to the commune/property owner will be treated in part as a counterparty to the usufruct of the property, and for the other part as an advance on the sale price. Rentals paid in this way by an individual or a household constitute in a sense the repayment of a loan that, at the end of 15-20 years, would enable them to become the owner of the leased property. This lease-purchase formula would assist less well-off residents to own accommodation without having the initial capital that is imposed by the banking system.

I consider it to be fundamentally unfair that an individual should work hard on the minimum wage for their entire life …  and remain unable to pass any property on to their children. One must create options for pushing back the inequalities of poverty.

Furthermore, 10 PAPs are under way …

The  “Am Pescher” PAPs [plans d'aménagement particuliers / individual development plans] are in the process of being implemented with the construction of residences and rows of houses in terraces that amount to 435 residential units. The Commune has 10% of the land, the remainder of which belongs to private owners. 56 houses are in the process of being built in the Millewee PAPs and the Rackebierg PAP. The Chaussée Blanche PAP provides for 5 houses and the rue Mère Térèsa PAP, 11 houses. The Westbay PAP, which is being finished off, includes 72 apartments and town houses. The phase II part of the PAG Rackebierg and Demec PAGs [plans d'aménagement généraux / general development plans] should accommodate 88 residential units and 36 apartments. Finally, the Les Thermes PAP provides for the creation of 3 residences and 4 semidetached houses amounting to 94 residential units. These projects are the promise of a fine infrastructure, which will form part of rationale of the sustainable habitat.

And for the future?

The very high level of attractiveness of our commune gives us two major challenges: how to combine the increase in the number of residents and public infrastructure, educational and framework requirements, etc… without risking a progressive deterioration in the commune’s finances?; and how can we find the right balance between population increase and maintain an excellent quality of life to which our commune can now and must continue in future to have access?

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