Abandoned Building Attached to Walloon Parliament: The Costly Dilemma

2023-12-13 09:33:00

The house located at 11 Baron Huart is today a real canker. Eaten away by humidity, its walls are peeling. Its roof threatens to lose tiles which could injure passers-by in Namur. The ground is no longer safe and could collapse. It is strongly recommended not to enter without construction site protection.

This building is attached to the extension of the Walloon parliament, of which much has already been written about construction costs. It was acquired in 2019 after a crazy procedure. Originally, the Bureau of Parliament only wanted to acquire the exterior courtyard of 11 which proved to be useful for the work of the House of Parliamentarians. This “courtyard” had not been integrated into the initial project to extend the parliamentary structure in 2011, but, a few years later, it appeared to be essential, because it encroached “on a future committee room”, perhaps we read in the Office note of April 25, 2019. Intense negotiations have therefore begun with the neighbors with a view to acquiring this courtyard, the value of which is estimated at 37,500 euros.

“The quality argument does not hold up”: a furniture expert examines the excessive spending on furniture for the House of ParliamentariansBought at a high price, this dilapidated property was supposed to allow the extension of the House of Parliamentarians . ©DR

The owners of the building considered that they were not going to divide their property. It was either the house with the yard or nothing. After a visit to the Council of State, it was then decided to purchase the entire building for 608,325 euros. In the Office note, it is already specified that “the property is in relatively poor condition”. Today, the value of the property is estimated to be between 350,000 and 370,000 euros. That’s a net loss of approximately 250,000 euros, or even half a million euros if we stick to the courtyard’s acquisition objectives.

Since the purchase, the house has only been used to store equipment and house workers. Four years later, the new Office, under the direction of President André Frédéric (PS), hesitated between selling it at a loss, razing it or renovating it. Each option is costly and none will recoup the public money spent.

”If I sell it now, I’ll get rid of it and I’ll lose 50% of what I bought… You don’t have to have studied economics at Harvard to say that it’s not a good idea. Unless a huge majority of the Bureau tells me that it is a good idea, but we will have to accept it,” explained André Frédéric in the Accounting Committee.

No GSM network in the future House of Parliamentarians: an error which will still cost Wallonia dearly. Since 2019, the house located at Baron Louis Huart has only been used by workers. ©DR

Another option: demolish everything to make a garden at more than 600,000 euros per plot. But demolition is expensive. “If it costs three times more to demolish than to secure, we will have to position ourselves at some point,” continued André Frédéric. The idea of ​​turning it into a nursery was also mentioned, but the costs would only skyrocket.

The priority seems to be to secure the premises by not letting mushrooms and shrubs invade the interior and to ensure that no passer-by walking along the Meuse is the victim of a piece of furniture blown loose by the wind. And resolve the issue of consumer spending.

“We have been paying water and electricity bills for years for this house… which is abandoned,” laments Germain Mugemangango, head of the PTB group in Parliament. “The crazy thing about this story is that it seems the house was purchased without having been visited.”

It appears in fact that the neighboring owners, the Lambert family, contested the expropriation order issued following a manifest error by the surveyors requested in this case. The Lamberts’ action “completely blocked the file for the renovation and development of the new House of Parliamentarians and the expropriations carried out under the legislature from 2009 to 2014”, explains André Antoine (Les Engagés), who was then president of the Walloon Parliament .

Equipment is stored in the parliamentary house. ©DR

It was therefore in an emergency that “the Bureau at the time unanimously decided, after official consultation of the acquisition committee, to accept the demands of the Lambert family to avoid additional costs linked to the postponement of the work ”, recognizes the deputy Les Engagés. Did the acquisition committee have the opportunity to visit the building before the purchase? “Probably, given their rigor of analysis”, answers André Antoine.

Today, the current president of the Walloon assembly does not want to repeat the same mistakes. He therefore wants to look for the most advantageous options. “We asked the company supporting all of the work to provide us with hypotheses,” explains André Frédéric. We are not yet going to favor one path over another. I want numbers before I can decide.”

The building is attached to the House of Parliamentarians, which is today called the extension of the Walloon parliament. ©DR
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