SZ Sustainability Summit: “The city of the future has already been built” – Economy

SZ Sustainability Summit: "The city of the future has already been built" - Economy

The goal is clear, there is actually no dispute: on the one hand, housing must be affordable and, on the other hand, also be climate-friendly. After all, both are part of sustainability, the environment as well as the social. It’s pretty clear that doing both at the same time will be difficult. “We have to make it easier to build faster and cheaper in Germany,” says the Federal Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) – and reaped the untroubled approval of Vonovia boss Rolf Buch, the largest landlord in the country.

Only: As agreed as the two on stage are, it’s just as tough going on the construction sites outside. Almost 650,000 apartments have been approved but not yet built, says Geywitz. And when they will be finished is quite uncertain. Not only is there a lack of construction workers and craftsmen, costs have also skyrocketed in recent months. The prices for materials such as steel, glass or cement have risen enormously, and some could not be obtained at all due to delivery problems. With wood, however the situation eased clearly again recently – which at least raised some hopes of a trend reversal in prices.

The trend in construction has therefore recently been clearly downwards: the number of newly built apartments fell last year, and this year the number of granted building permits. The industry has also been for months in a mood of crisisthe business climate and above all the business expectations of the construction companies have been in the red at least since the Russian attack on the Ukraine, says the Munich-based company Ifo Institute determined.

But not only war, corona and a shortage of skilled workers are depressing the mood, some of the difficulties are also homemade: the federal government stopped funding for new construction this year already twicebecause the money ran out. And even the last remaining subsidy pot for the particularly demanding new houses could soon be empty.

Part of the funding has already been converted, says Geywitz. Much more money is now available to at least meet the government target of 100,000 social housing units per year. The federal government wants to distribute 14.5 billion here by the end of 2026. On the other hand, things have been pretty quiet lately when it comes to the other major goal, namely the completion of a total of 400,000 new apartments every year.

In the meantime, Geywitz is putting a stronger focus on climate protection in construction. After they only formed a heat pump alliance together with the Minister for Economic Affairs on Wednesday Robert Habeck (Greens), she now announces a timber construction initiative with Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir from the Greens at the SZ sustainability summit on Thursday.

The consumption of living space also has consequences

But that’s not enough for the Vonovia boss. “We will also have to talk about reducing requirements and financing,” warns Buch. The high Interest charges and the enormously increased prices made it “just not easy” to build – especially if the material is supposed to be sustainable. What Buch has in mind would therefore be CO₂ credits for climate-friendly building materials. A wooden building is still more expensive than a concrete house. Renovations are already interesting because of the high energy costs, which is why the group has drawn up a complete plan for all of its houses by 2045. “But the issue of new construction is still unresolved.”

The minister knows that too. In order to get the social and ecological problems under control, a debate about “good forms of housing” is needed, says Geywitz. The consequences of one’s own demands and consumption are often already an issue when it comes to mobility and eating, but almost never when it comes to living. On average, each person today needs well over 50 square meters, more than twice as much as after the Second World War.

Building alone therefore only solves part of the problems – and at the same time creates new ones. Today, the sector accounts for 50 percent of resource use and even 70 percent of land use in the state, says Lamia Messari-Becker from the University of Siegen. It is not always necessary to always build new houses. “The city of the future has already been built,” says the civil engineer. Now the main thing is to convert and expand, to condense and renovate the existing stock in such a way that more people can live in a way that is just as climate-friendly as it is socially acceptable. The construction could even become the “engine for more sustainability” because it is closely interwoven with other economic sectors such as industry and transport.

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