Söder’s housing dilemma – Bavaria – SZ.de

At first glance, it seems as if Prime Minister Markus Söder could take on this task. As if the whole thing were simply too heavy, practically unmanageable, although his building minister, Christian Bernreiter, is diligently assisting. It’s about the state housing company Bayernheim that Söder launched, it’s about an afternoon a few weeks ago in the south of Nuremberg – and the thing in question is a huge shovel for the groundbreaking photos. The metal drum is likely to be a good five meters long, a shovel the size of half a park bench. “It looks really big,” Söder is also amazed. More than half a dozen guests of honor, including the two CSU politicians, lend a hand at the end to hoist the thing into the cameras. However, there is no talk of trespassing in the Prime Minister’s speech: the beginning of Bayernheim may have been “a bit tough”, says Söder. But in the meantime there is “new impetus” – and in the state government “priority applies to housing construction”.

In 2018, in the state election year, the Free State founded Bayernheim with noble goals: to build 10,000 new apartments by 2025. At the time, Söder declared the issue of housing to be a “central social issue”, especially in cities and metropolitan areas. But: So far, not a single key of a self-built Bayernheim apartment has been handed over to tenants – and, as the Ministry of Construction informed the SZ, it will probably not be the case until 2024. So after the state election. At least two properties with 89 apartments in project partnerships should be ready for occupancy before October 2023. According to the ministry, Bayernheim currently has 234 apartments in its portfolio, these were bought almost ready; In addition, 806 units are currently under construction, and around 3,490 apartments are being planned or developed. A total of 4530 apartments were “put on the road”. Getting started – this has meanwhile replaced the verb build in communication.

You can see that something is happening now. But you can also see, without a doubt: With the 10,000 units in two years, it will almost certainly not happen. 2000 new apartments by 2020, even this first target was not met: At the end of 2020, Bayernheim only bought 71 units, all of which were in Munich and not built by the company itself. However, that is exactly what Söder announced in tandem with the then Minister of Construction Ilse Aigner in 2018 after a meeting of the cabinet, the “housing cabinet”: “Build, build, build” is the motto. In order to gain space quickly, the entire inventory of the Free State will be checked. It is “not an issue for weeks”, but you are now making big strides. But first of all they were neither quick nor big.

The FDP calls for Bayernheim to be “liquidated immediately”

“Failed with a bang” has been the devastating verdict that the opposition has been passing for years. As from the FDP construction politician Sebastian Körber: As a “service opposition”, the Liberals advised Bayernheim to be “liquidated immediately” and the funds given to municipal or cooperative companies. Because: “They can build.” You have to think about it: the Free State does not. Florian von Brunn (SPD) put it like this a few months ago: “What’s the point of a housing association that doesn’t build a single apartment?” In the 2023 election year, it is foreseeable what the SPD, Greens, FDP and AfD will do with Bayernheim: Söder, the prime minister who announced, the promise-breaker.

In Nuremberg, of course, the atmosphere is great on that November day. The meeting point is a gravel building site in the new district of Lichtenreuth. Bar tables are set up, sparkling wine is served and Schäuferla with dumplings in finger food jars. Only the construction workers in the dusty dungarees – work is already going on on the site – remain a little apart with bottled beer, watching the hustle and bustle. In the end, after the speeches and photos, Söder will stay longer and mingle with the guests. If he doesn’t get back in the limousine so quickly, that is a well-known indication that he particularly likes an appointment.

“Priority for housing in general”: Prime Minister Markus Söder (front) and Minister of Construction Christian Bernreiter (both CSU), who took office in February.

(Photo: Frank Hoermann/Sven Simon/Imago)

No wonder: the new Lichtenreuth district is a focal point of Nuremberg’s urban development. In addition to the new technical university, living space for around 6,000 people is being built here. Bayernheim is involved in the development of the district, building 249 apartments for people on low incomes, for singles, couples and families, 48 ​​units are specially equipped for seniors, seven are rented to the city mission for residential groups. “Today, Nuremberg city history is being written,” says the Nuremberg Söder. What can be heard on every corner at the groundbreaking, in the official speeches as well as in the industry chat over a snack: While private companies tend to build less or even cancel planned projects due to the crisis, Bayernheim is now reliably in the market.

Only one number is heard nowhere on this day: 10000. An SZ inquiry about the target at the ministry is answered as if the specific question had not been asked at all: By the end of 2023, Bayernheim will probably have more than 5000 apartments “on the road “. By 2025 “a number of other projects will be in preparation”. If the impression is not deceptive, the number has never been heard from Bernreiter’s mouth since he took office. In February 2022, as part of the cabinet reshuffle, the previous Deggendorf district administrator became Minister of Construction – as the fourth head of department since the house was founded in 2018.

Should the ambitious target be officially lowered? D rather not.

In the CSU, some would have believed that the pragmatist Bernreiter would officially capture the delicate target mark, so to speak, dim it – i.e. proactively announce that there would unfortunately be a few thousand fewer apartments in 2025 due to difficult general conditions. Apparently they didn’t want to risk the headline “Söder admits failure”. At least with the coalition partner Freie Wahler, the insight has matured, albeit defensively. FW politician Hans Friedl admitted in a subordinate clause in the plenum that Söder’s announcement in 2018 “was perhaps too ambitious”.

None of Bernreiter’s speeches lacks any other reference to this: there are three state-owned companies, in addition to Bayernheim, Stadibau and the Nuremberg settlement, which together currently have a good 20,000 apartments. Please don’t just focus on Bayernheim and the line from 2018 – that’s probably the purpose of the reference. Or maybe the hope that the voters’ perception of the numbers will somehow mix and that it all sounds quite respectable in the end.

The current initiation of 4500 Bayernheim apartments is remarkable. The “new impetus”, says Söder in Nuremberg, comes with a new minister and a new managing director. Ralph Büchele took over the top position at Bayernheim in autumn 2021; he is a civil and industrial engineer, real estate expert, experienced management consultant, worked for Roland Berger for almost two decades. Büchele has evidently taken the work to a new level, especially in terms of purchasing sites and networking with partners. Anyone who visits him for a background discussion in the offices of Bayernheim – with a view of the high-rise building to the east of Munich – gets the impression that there is a real handyman at work. Who doesn’t feel like an administrator like in a subordinate authority, but rather as a designer in a not exactly easy market environment. And certainly not driven by any election campaign debates. Who simply has to get hold of suitable plots of land in competition with other builders, who, despite the government coffers behind them, of course don’t pay moon prices.

According to the ministry, of the numerous projects in planning and development, nine are now on state property, twelve on municipal property, one on one of the federal government and 24 on private property – there is movement here too; in the case of projects already under construction, acquisitions had previously only been made on the open market. Recently, for example, Bayernheim bought a plot of land for 120 apartments in a new construction area in Neuburg an der Donau, having previously won a concept competition held by the city; Construction is scheduled to start in autumn 2024. There are also projects in which she is a partner, see Nuremberg-Lichtenreuth. “We have big plans,” says Büchele at the construction site there. His company also wants to be a role model on the market – in the development of the district as well as in the construction itself: for example through system construction methods to save time and money. Büchele says at the ceremony: “We’re going full steam ahead now.”

“Traitors to Bavarian tenants” – Söder’s image problem from the past

But what use will this be for the CSU in the election campaign? Is Söder to blame himself because he simply set too ambitious goals in exuberance when he was finally allowed to become Prime Minister? Söder’s dilemma is: Any mention of progress in 2023 should be gratefully embellished by the opposition with reference to the missed target. Some in the CSU therefore secretly hope that the topic of housing in the election campaign will be ranked among the other issues. In addition, Söder historically has an image problem as the top residential builder. Under his aegis as Minister of Finance, the Landesbank once sold 33,000 apartments belonging to the non-profit GBW to investors, and as a result many residents complained about substantial rent increases. The matter with the GBW sale is tricky in detail, there was also a committee of inquiry – for example the SPD branded Söder as a “traitor to Bavarian tenants”. A motive that can probably be brought back to the people in the election campaign.

At least the tactic of reacting as sharply as possible to criticism, no matter who it comes from, has prevailed in the state government for the time being. When the Supreme Court of Auditors (ORH) calculated the modest Bayernheim balance sheet six months ago, Bernreiter was quite thin-skinned: The ORH statement was “not practical for a newly founded company in the highly dynamic housing market”.

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