Berlin has flipped the switch and switched from confrontation to cooperation in housing construction policy. When in doubt, for housing construction, not against it – that is now the motto in Berlin. But whether it serves the cause, whether that’s enough? The newly created alliance for housing construction and affordable housing is intended to promote and implement the goal of around 200,000 apartments by 2030 set out in the coalition agreement of the new red-green-red state government. On average, this means around 20,000 apartments per year. The state-owned housing companies, cooperatives and private real estate companies should participate in this. However, this could turn out to be problematic, especially against the background of the currently worsening framework conditions. The number of building permits in Berlin was already declining before the Ukraine war. Associations cannot make binding building commitments
“The construction industry is working at 120 percent capacity; that was the case even before the war in Ukraine and the lack of raw materials,” Steffen Sebastian, Professor of Real Estate Financing at the IREBS International Real Estate Business School (Regensburg) recently told Immobilien-Zeitung. “How are you supposed to increase capacity in the short term in a market that was already unable to meet demand for construction work before the war and is now having additional problems?” , rising labor, energy and material costs.
Added to this are the rising interest rates for building loans and the additional housing requirements for refugees, which the state government could not have considered when proclaiming the alliance. All of this also jeopardizes residential renovations, retrofitting, construction projects and project developments. “Discussing the challenges of building and living in an alliance is the right way,” says Manja Schreiner, Managing Director of the Berlin and Brandenburg Construction Association member of the alliance: “If we want to resolve conflicting goals, then they have to be named and discussed in a solution-oriented manner . We don’t have many more meetings before the declaration is due to be adopted in June, and I still see room for improvement when it comes to the specific measures for fast and cost-effective construction.” The city’s new housing alliance wants to formulate common goals by the end of the first half of the year. The partners then also want to determine who is making what contribution. While builders and project developers could make binding commitments here if they wanted to, the interest groups represented in the alliance, such as the BBU Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Companies e.V. or the Berlin-Brandenburg State Association of the Federal Association of Free Real Estate and Housing Companies (BFW) have no mandates from them Members to promise the Governing Mayor numbers for new housing activity. Especially since the alliance should aim to increase the proportion of affordable and public welfare-oriented apartments in new buildings. At the first meeting in January, no joint statement had been made.
On February 21, representatives of the Senate and those responsible for the districts, players in the housing and construction industry, the tenants’ association, social organizations and trade unions met again to discuss matters. Three working groups had already been set up in January on the topics of new construction and modernization, rent development and tenant protection, as well as urban planning and design. In a joint statement, it was now said, among other things, that they wanted to build a significantly larger proportion of affordable and public welfare-oriented apartments in the lower and middle price segment. “This requires the acceleration of planning and approval procedures, together with project developers who want to build, attractive funding instruments and efficient use of building land.” It also said: “Building projects that have already been approved must be implemented quickly.” These noble goals were achieved by everyone represented in the alliance Stakeholders sign. Meanwhile: Representatives of the Berlin administration, who are supposed to implement this, are not at the table.
“What I know better is the alliance for housing in Brandenburg, of which we are also a member,” says building lobbyist Schreiner: “The alliance is much smaller. There, too, there are workshop talks and smaller working groups in addition to the leadership group. They then take on exactly one topic per session, which is then discussed. This is a goal-oriented way of working: ask specific questions and work through them in the form of a workshop until there is a result at the end. The external moderator then ensures that the result is also formulated and carried into the political arena. Employees from the relevant specialist departments in the ministry are always present. In this way, they hear directly from practice where the difficulties lie and can immediately take this into account in a draft bill.” Your association represents 350 companies in Berlin and Brandenburg with 1.1 million apartments. “For the state, this means above all: Being specific about how and in what time frame planning processes are to be accelerated, housing subsidies are to be further developed in a targeted manner or the supply of building land is to be improved. In Berlin, we finally have to move from describing the problem to solving it.”
Hamburg is the model for the Berlin Alliance. Last year, the “Alliance for Housing” there was extended for the third time after 2011 and 2016. When Olaf Scholz moved into the town hall as mayor in 2011, 6,000 new residential units per year were the target, a third of which were publicly funded. The contract now stipulates the construction of 10,000 apartments per year by the end of the legislative period in 2025, the allocation of more urban land than before with heritable building rights and a higher social housing quota: 35 instead of 30 percent.
As in Berlin, in Hamburg development plans and building permits are basically matters of the districts and their district assemblies. In the case of projects of interest to the city as a whole, however, the Senate can intervene in individual cases or initiate proceedings. Whether Berlin will make more use of this opportunity, which the capital also offers the capital city, in the future? In the background, in Hamburg as in Berlin, the next endurance test is smoldering. In the future, both senates want to assign plots of land primarily via leasehold and no longer want to sell them. This meets with clear rejection, especially among Berlin’s cooperatives. “It would be more than helpful to offer the cooperatives state-owned areas at reasonable prices,” says Andrej Eckhardt, chairman of the “Grüne Mitte” housing cooperative in Hellersdorf: “But leasehold means that you can lose everything after 99 years at the latest if the lessor so demands. Not to mention personal use, the sale of the property and other reasons.” In whatever direction the Berlin housing alliance is heading: “If the war cannot be ended quickly, then we will simply no longer be able to build to this extent, because, for example, the Supply chains for reinforced concrete are interrupted,” says Manja Schreiner. “The worst-case scenario is that in eight weeks construction sites will be at a standstill because some product is missing in the supply chain. Improvising is only possible to a limited extent.”