Lack of housing in Germany: Alliance for Bauwumms

The “Social Housing” alliance warns of a record housing shortage. It demands 50 billion euros to avoid a collapse.

Cranes at a construction site

There is a lot more need for such cranes: New residential construction is also coming to a standstill Photo: Schoening/imago

BERLIN taz The development has been clear for years. Whether Leipzig, Munich or Berlin – affordable apartments are in short supply. The number of social housing is shrinking continuously. Now a new low is imminent. “The situation on the housing market is dramatic,” warned the President of the German Tenants’ Association, Lukas Siebenkotten, on Thursday in Berlin.

A study now published by the “Social Housing” alliance comes to a frightening conclusion: In 2023 there is a risk of a record shortage of more than 700,000 apartments – the largest deficit in over 20 years. The main reasons are the immigration of Ukrainians as a result of the Russian war of aggression and the slump in housing construction. However, it is also emphasized that immigration is needed in view of the population development and the shortage of skilled workers.

In order to avoid a collapse on the housing market, the alliance, in which the tenants’ association and various social and business associations are organized, is demanding a special fund of 50 billion euros for social housing. “It takes a bang,” said Siebenkotten. In addition to the special fund, the government must reduce VAT for social housing from 19 to 7 percent. In addition, faster planning and approval procedures would be needed.

The study, carried out by the Pestel Institute in Hanover and the Kiel building research institute ARGE, examines various areas: such as current demographic trends, cost trends in construction and, with a special focus, social housing.

Hamburg is exemplary

The prognosis for the latter in particular looks bleak. The number of social housing is declining for years: In 2007 there were more than 2 million social housing units, today the number has almost halved. Because more social housing is falling out of its rent control than new ones are being created. According to the study, the stock decreased by an average of 30,000 residential units per year from 2018 to 2021. Since construction costs and building interest have risen, the funds available to date are far from sufficient to create 100,000 social housing units per year.

The traffic light has actually set itself the goal of building 400,000 new apartments per year – 100,000 of which are publicly funded. According to the study, the federal and state governments would have to invest 12.5 to 15.2 billion euros a year in social housing, depending on the energy standards used in construction.

The federal government is currently only providing the federal states with around 14.5 billion euros until 2026. The federal states are also obliged to counter-finance the sum with at least 30 percent. This is actually a record sum compared to the previous government. “If you look at the development in ten years, you should see very clearly: 2022 was the year when social housing construction picked up again,” said the Federal Minister for Building Klara Geywitz (SPD) of the taz in April.

However, this goal is likely to be missed. The study assumes that only about 20,000 social housing units will be built in 2022. There are very different willingness to promote the construction of new social housing in the federal states. “Hamburg is the undisputed front runner and therefore a model country for social housing construction,” according to the alliance.

Based on the funds invested, Hamburg, Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein follow. According to the study, Hamburg is also ahead in terms of newly created rental apartments from 2017 to 2021. Schleswig-Holstein is a role model when it comes to reducing bureaucracy. There, an application for subsidies for social housing is usually processed within four weeks.

“Housing is a social question, but it must also be answered in terms of climate policy,” said the Green housing politician Kassem Taher Saleh. There is therefore a need for “climate-friendly building in existing buildings”. In large cities, office space could be converted or buildings increased.

The construction sector is one of the largest CO2 emitters in Germany. But there is currently a conflict of goals: higher energy standards in construction are also more expensive. (with dpa)

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