Klara Geywitz wants to densify cities

D.The number by which Klara Geywitz is measured is 400,000. According to the will of the traffic light coalition, here is how many new apartments should be built each year. The Brandenburg SPD politician, who has been in charge of the federal ministry for housing, urban development and construction since the beginning of December, should make this possible. For the first time in over 20 years, Germany has an independent ministry for this area. Geywitz’s message on Tuesday in front of the blue wall of the federal press conference is unmistakable: at least on the square, the achievement of the new building objectives must not be missed.

The ministry brought the accounts to the Leibniz Institute for Ecological Space Development and the German Institute of Economics. The result was exactly what the minister wanted: there are at least 99,000 hectares of land ready for development in German cities and districts – an area the size of Berlin or four times the area of ​​Frankfurt am Main. “The good thing is we have potential,” said Geywitz, clearly pleased. According to the researchers, between 900,000 and four million apartments could be built on the land. It was for the “good half,” Geywitz said: “Two million would certainly be achievable.”

According to estimates by the Federal Research Institute for Building, Urban Planning and Spatial Development (BBSR), just over half of the space could be developed in the short term. The institute is part of the ministry’s portfolio. Geywitz pointed out that there is still building land in large cities, where high demand has recently caused rents and purchase prices to rise so much. “The development of the second row will be a big problem.” On April 27, the minister wants to conclude an alliance for affordable construction between politicians and the real estate industry. This should deliver more results than the Grand Coalition Housing Summit, which produced many images from the chancellery in September 2018, but fewer new apartments than expected.

Numerous unpublished approvals

In urban districts, BBSR chief Markus Eltges has speculated a potential of between 370,000 and 740,000 possible additional apartments. However, that does not mean that the same amount of areas need to be sealed off, a concern that particularly concerns green conservationists. In many cases, it is also possible to create new living space by expanding attics or by building on top of discount stores and their parking lots. Conversion from office to living space is also conceivable.

However, Eltges also said that two-thirds of the areas now identified as possible building land have already been allocated by municipalities for residential construction. Some building permits have already been granted. According to the study, the so-called building overhang, the difference between apartments approved but not yet built, now amounts to nearly 800,000 housing units. 165,000 of these apartments are located in the seven largest German cities. According to Eltges, a major nuisance for on-site managers is the lack of “willingness to exploit” property owners. Eckart Würzner, vice president of the Association of German Cities and Mayor of Heidelberg, also sees this problem: “Building areas that can be used immediately must not be left lying around for speculative purposes,” he asked.

Geywitz promised to make buildings more attractive by cutting red tape. For example, he mentioned the parking regulations. “If you increase the density indoors, developers often have major problems finding the parking spaces they need.” However, underground parking is not absolutely necessary if residents can move around without a car. He also wants to hold talks about the previously prescribed “second escape route”, which prevents some possible attic conversions. According to City Day Vice President Würzner, 1.1 million apartments could be created with attic renovations alone.

However, he also stressed the shortage of both building materials and craftsmen, which the war had exacerbated. A large steel mill in Ukraine was bombed and the plasterboard industry was also “on the ground”. Germany needs to invest more in its production capabilities in areas of systemic importance such as these.

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