The federal government has big plans: It wants to create 400,000 new apartments every year, 100,000 of them as state-subsidized social housing. The goals are also ambitious when it comes to environmental protection, Germany should quickly become climate-friendly. If you want to do justice to both, it is likely to be expensive. At least that’s the message of a coalition of tenants’ association, IG Bau, scientists and other associations, which on Friday presented an investigation including demands for social housing. “It would be a wise investment in the future to build with higher climate standards than required by law,” said IG Bau boss Robert Feiger.
Even according to current standards, the renowned Pestel Institute puts the costs for the promotion of the 100,000 “traffic light social housing” at 5 billion euros per year. If the apartment buildings were to be built in a particularly energy-efficient manner, according to the specifications of the so-called Efficiency House 40, then even 8.5 billion euros would be needed. If you pull out all the stops when it comes to climate protection standards, this makes building very expensive, for example because of the ventilation systems that are then necessary, said Matthias Günther, who headed the study.
So far, the federal government has made a good one billion euros available for social housing, another billion is to come from the climate package, and the federal states are also contributing money. Federal Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) emphasized on Thursday evening in the Bundestag that she has both in mind. “We need a lot more affordable and climate-neutral housing,” she said. The traffic light coalition wants to achieve climate neutrality in Germany by 2045. For this to happen, emissions from houses would have to decrease much faster than before, while the number of apartments should continue to grow.
The representatives of the “Social Housing” alliance reiterated how urgent new social housing is. There are eleven million households that depend on social housing, but only 1.1 million social housing, said Janina Bessenich, Managing Director of the Federal Association of Caritas for Disabled Aid and Psychiatry. And the number continues to shrink, with tens of thousands of state-subsidised apartments disappearing every year because fewer social housing units are being built than are falling out of the rent control. “We need a real social change in housing construction,” said Bessenich.
The first central question is how much money the traffic light wants to spend on this. The federal government has other expensive plans, for example for digitization. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has already warned his cabinet colleagues to set priorities. Geywitz said in general on Friday that she would “campaign for sufficient funding” in order to reverse the trend in social housing.
The second central question is how the state billions should be used. Should one actually build to the significantly more expensive energy standard of the Efficiency House 40 or rather save greenhouse gases elsewhere? IG Bau boss Feiger argues that very high standards will have to be achieved by 2045 anyway, so it is necessary to build the houses accordingly now rather than having to renovate them later to make them climate neutral.
Dietmar Walberg, a co-author of the study, raised doubts about this path. The construction costs have already risen sharply due to the increased statutory energy standards. Apartment building prices have roughly doubled since 2000, with half of the increase being due to additional government requirements. Achieving the last percent of energy savings is so expensive that it is unlikely to pay off for tenants in the long term, said Walberg. He advocated focusing more on the type of energy used, such as using renewable sources for heating.
The assessment of Daniel Föst, spokesman for housing policy for the FDP in the Bundestag, also goes in this direction. In the future, they want to promote “where the greatest effects are achieved,” he tells the SZ. “The tonne of CO2 saved must be decisive. This is the only way that new buildings and existing buildings can become climate-friendly as quickly as possible and remain affordable at the same time.”
The President of the German Tenants’ Association, Lukas Siebenkotten, spoke of a difficult question. There must be higher energy standards, how high they should be, but he didn’t want to commit to that. In any case, it would not be possible to combine climate protection and social housing without massive state support.