Construction of social housing: cheaper housing – for a lot of money

Status: 01/14/2022 1:34 p.m

The federal government wants to build 100,000 social housing units per year. The “social housing” alliance warns: This is only realistic if significantly more is invested.

from Andre Kartschall, rbb

450,000 apartments are missing in Germany. This is what the study “Affordable Housing 2022” says, written by the Pestel Institute and commissioned by an alliance of tenant representatives, social organizations and the construction industry.

They agree: the reason for the housing shortage lies in a misjudgment. Just 15 years ago, the federal government at the time was of the opinion that the number of inhabitants would continue to fall, that there were enough apartments and that Germany was therefore actually “completed”. A miscalculation, because the population even increased slightly – mainly due to immigration.

Now more apartments really urgently need to be built – and also more social housing, according to the alliance.

shortage in metropolitan areas

While the situation is comparatively relaxed in large parts of eastern Germany, the shortage in large cities and in the economically strong south of Germany is becoming more and more acute. “Constantly rising rents are the market’s answer to this shortage. And the dogs bite the last ones, so to speak,” says Lukas Siebenkotten from the German Tenants’ Association. This also increases social spending. The costs of accommodation for the long-term unemployed in southern Germany are now up to 45 percent higher than in 2015. The state is paying for the lack of social housing indirectly through higher rent subsidies. The tense situation on the housing market is costing the public coffers dearly one way or the other.

End of the housing shortage by 2025?

400,000 new apartments per year, 100,000 of which are social housing – the “social housing” alliance is satisfied with the current goals of the federal government. “We have the opportunity to largely reduce the housing shortage by 2025,” says Matthias Günter, head of the Pestel Institute, which wrote the study. But in order to achieve the goals, much more money is needed than before. Because the inflation rates in construction are well above the general inflation rate. The alliance puts the need for subsidies for social housing at at least five billion euros.

Cost factor climate protection

But according to the study, it could also be 8.5 billion – if the new social housing were built according to high energy efficiency standards. New buildings in Germany should make their contribution to achieving the national climate protection goals. That costs money for insulation, efficient heating, better windows. “Climate protection is a good thing, but that’s not for free,” says Dietmar Walberg from the Working Group for Contemporary Building, which is also a member of the alliance. How energy-efficient the social housing will be in the end is still an open question – and with it the question of costs.

Build – but where?

The study does not answer one question in detail: Where should the apartments be built? Because in the focal points of the housing shortage, the prices for building land have been rising for years. There are creative ideas on how to use the limited space more efficiently. No longer build supermarkets with one storey, but with apartments above them, transform offices into apartments, expand attics or add several floors to existing houses. But these approaches are likely to remain just a drop in the ocean.

Berlin has been fighting the state of emergency for years.

Image: picture alliance / picture agency-o

Berlin, which has one of the lowest vacancy rates in Germany, has been fighting the state of emergency for years. The city’s public housing companies have a political mandate to build wherever possible. 50 percent of the new buildings are always social housing.

In the east of the city, with its large prefabricated building areas, a new approach is now being taken: the old blocks of flats are simply to be increased. In a pilot project, two to three new floors are being built on houses of the WSB70 type – classic GDR prefab construction. The process has great advantages: “We use the existing infrastructure and we are developing the existing ones further,” says Ulrich Schiller, Managing Director of the state-owned company HOWOGE.

The pilot projects could be a model for the stock, but one with limited potential. HOWOGE has more than 73,000 apartments, with 15,000 more in the planning stage. According to initial estimates, the potential for adding stories to the roof is just 800 units. “It won’t be the big solution to Berlin’s housing problem – but it will be an important building block,” says Schiller. The lack of housing, especially for low-income earners, does not appear to be easy to remedy.

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