Apparently doubts are growing in the government camp that it will be possible to build 400,000 apartments this year. “There is no question that it will be very difficult to achieve at the moment. There has been a shortage of skilled workers for a long time, now there is inflation and the dramatic collapse of supply chains,” said Bernhard Daldrup, SPD chairman in the Bundestag building committee, the Tagesspiegel. “A lot of structural steel was produced in Mariupol.” Several politicians in the traffic light coalition denied a report from Saturday that Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was planning a housing summit in the fall – making the issue a top priority, bypassing Construction Minister Klara Geywitz. Geywitz’ “Alliance for Affordable Housing” planned an appointment with Scholz right from the start, and he was in all papers about it. Only the date October 12 is new.

The embassy will assume that the issue has “high priority and appreciation in the government,” said Daldrup. He warned against overestimating the “magic number” of 400,000 apartments. This is the goal in the coalition agreement, “not that it will be achieved this year”. But it shouldn’t be given up either: “The construction industry needs the signal that the promotion of housing construction will continue at a high level.” “Simplified planning procedures, training offensive and immigration of skilled workers – and last but not least the widespread use of new, innovative building materials”. From the federal government to the municipalities, the following must apply: “More courage to experiment!” We need a new societal culture for building”.

Berlin is an example of the failure to ramp up housing production. Rents have been rising for years and the coalitions led by the SPD, now in their fourth legislative period in a row, have promised to ease the situation through regulations and, above all, more new construction of apartments at affordable rents.

But that failed even in the area of ​​subsidized housing due to the unattractive conditions. Only 1,212 social housing units were built last year, and only 7,611 in the past eight years. Private property developers consistently refrain from government subsidies and only build social housing units where they receive plots of land for the construction of condominiums or expensive rental apartments without commitments in return.

Only the state-owned housing associations built social housing because the Senate has obliged them since 2017 to offer at least half of their new apartments at the subsidized rents. As a result, the housing shortage is getting worse. Especially since the stock of older social housing is shrinking. Because the funding expires after 30 years in many cases, and with it the ties. From 2022 and the next two years, more than 19,000 social housing units will no longer be available and can then be given to people with higher incomes at high rents.

The new building is not even enough to fill this gap. A large part of the new Berliners, more than 60,000 war refugees from the Ukraine with permanent residence status, depend on these apartments at low rents. Not only the supply of subsidized cheap social housing is shrinking. The number of newly completed apartments in the city as a whole is also going down. At the end of May, the Statistics Office reported that only 15,870 new apartments were built in 2021. That was almost three percent fewer than in the previous year. Again, fewer apartments were newly built in 2020 than in the previous year.

The downtrend is solidifying. This is also due to the fact that fewer and fewer building applications for new apartments are being approved. For years. Most recently, in March, the Office for Statistics reported that the Berlin building supervisory authorities had approved building applications for 18,716 apartments throughout 2021. That was 8.5 percent less than a year earlier.

More than a quarter of newly approved homes will be built as freehold properties, meaning they will be sold when completed. The city lacks less expensive condominiums than cheap rental apartments. Especially since many people in Berlin cannot afford to own property: 82.6 percent of Berliners rent their homes.

In their search for explanations for the paralyzed new building, the experts cite political and economic developments. In the past legislative period, the left had led the department for urban development and, above all, had the regulation of rents in mind, for example through the decree of the “rent cap”, which was declared void and overturned by the Federal Constitutional Court a little later. The construction industry, on the other hand, complained about a “climate hostile to construction” in the city, sluggish approval authorities and a lack of land for new residential construction.

Corona also hit the industry: supply chains broke off and prices rose. The situation was drastically aggravated this year by the Russian war of aggression. Wood and other building materials and construction workers from Ukraine and Russia became even more scarce and expensive. In some cases, construction companies can no longer even give fixed prices for building materials when calculating construction work, because these are rising so rapidly that the final price can only be given when they are delivered.

The industry is also complaining about a massive shortage of skilled workers. Because at the same time the interest rates for building loans are rising sharply, the prices for apartments and other new buildings have to be recalculated – demolition or postponement of building projects are the order of the day.

Berlin’s governing mayor Franzisky Giffey (SPD) recently suggested defusing the rent issue by linking rents to the residents’ income. With that, she was met with astonishment even in her own party. Now she was happy about the high status of the topic in the federal government. “We will coordinate our housing alliance and the activities in Berlin well with the federal government so that we can achieve our new construction goals despite the tense situation in the construction industry and increased costs,” she told the Tagesspiegel. “It’s about the triad of new residential construction, tenant protection and urban quality for the liveable city districts of the future. We will use the federal government’s support for Berlin.”