The majority of federal states act too arbitrarily when it comes to housing construction

The majority of federal states act too arbitrarily when it comes to housing construction

A vacant lot in Stralsund

In order to create living space, a municipality can oblige an owner to build on his property within a reasonable period of time.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Germany needs urgently needs living space – and therefore also building land. But many federal states are making no progress here, not even in obtaining affordable housing.

In June 2021, the federal government created four instruments that make it easier to create affordable housing in construction planning. In many places they are simply not used. This shows an analysis of Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB)which is exclusively available to the Handelsblatt.

According to this, only four countries are currently using all the measures provided by the Building Land Modernization Act. Six countries have taken only some action and another six countries have done nothing at all since implementation. According to the DGB analysis, there is a “patchwork in planning law”.

With the amendment to the building code, the grand coalition at the time wanted to achieve above all that sufficient land for housing be available. To this end, the following four instruments were created for the municipalities:

  • Reservation when reclassifying from rental to condominium: With the conversion proviso, the municipality should be able to prevent tenants of cheap apartments being evicted because of their own use or extensive renovations – only to ultimately re-let them for significantly higher prices. There are exceptions for residential buildings owned by small owners.
  • Right of first refusal for the public: The municipality receives a special right of first refusal for undeveloped plots of land if these can be developed predominantly with residential buildings. This is not about the municipal right of first refusal in milieu protection areas, which was overturned by the Federal Administrative Court in November 2021.
  • Deviations from the development plan: With the consent of the municipality, a higher number of storeys or more extensions than before can be approved in individual cases for a building project. Such an exemption from the stipulations must be compatible with public interests, also taking into account neighboring interests.
  • Landowners can be obligated to buildn: In the case of vacant lots, underused plots of land or brownfield sites, the municipality can force an owner to build on his property within a reasonable period of time if residential uses are permitted in the development plan. This should prevent land speculation and mobilize building land.

However, all four instruments are only allowed in areas applied with a tight housing market become. Only the state government can determine by ordinance that an area is particularly at risk.

countries as veto powers

The DGB criticizes that the instruments are not used at all in many municipalities. Accordingly, only Berlin and Hamburg exploit all possibilities. Lower Saxony and Hesse use all instruments, but not in all areas with a tight housing market.

Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein apparently ignore the reservation when converting rental apartments into owner-occupied apartments.

In the remaining six federal states, no municipality has extended options for creating or maintaining affordable housing. There are certainly areas in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Thuringia with a tight housing market.

>> Read here: New build nightmare – why building in Germany has become so difficult

“It is completely incomprehensible that the federal states can act as a veto power, depending on their discretion, and thus block the full application of the law,” said DGB board member Stefan Körzell to the Handelsblatt. In order to be able to effectively counteract the tense situation on the housing market, “the local authorities should be given all the possibilities of the Building Land Mobilization Act”.

However, the numbers show something else: there are almost 11,000 municipalities nationwide. According to the DGB analysis, the rental price brake is currently effective in 410 municipalities. Only 73 municipalities can issue a reservation of approval against the conversion of rental apartments into condominiums. However, the other three instruments can be used in 538 municipalities.

The DGB is therefore calling for a nationwide introduction of the tightening of tenancy law and planning law in order to dissolve the existing patchwork quilt.


The traffic light government has promised in their coalition agreement to change the building codethat instruments can be used “even more effectively and easily”. The corresponding regulations in the Building Land Mobilization Act would also be extended indefinitely. That hasn’t happened yet.

Municipalities overwhelmed with application

The building policy spokesman union faction, Jan-Marco Luczak, warns: “The sole focus on more regulation is misleading.” It is not so much a question of what options for intervention the municipalities or the state have, but rather the legal framework to enable more new housing construction to align Construction must become more digital, simpler and faster.

>> Read here: KfW new construction funding – These are the new conditions

The German Institute for Urban Studies (Difu) sees implementation problems in particular: “It is not enough to keep giving cities and municipalities new instruments for the creation of building land. You also have to enable them to apply them,” explained Arno Bunzel, Head of the Urban Development, Legal and Social Research Department.

According to Difu, this is not “trivial” because in practice the municipalities often do not have the time to familiarize themselves with the new law. The Institute has now put together a handout with concrete practical examples.

For example, it is clear that municipalities mainly use building regulations as a threat to convince the owners of a “cooperative cooperation”. In plain language: The obligation to build apartments is rarely actually expressed.

More: How Germany could become a country of homeowners

Source link