No less than 194,000 new flats will need to be raised in Berlin between now and 2030 to cover the city’s housing demand. But so far, construction areas for only 179,000 new flats have been zoned. These figures were quoted by Katrin Lompscher, Berlin’s Senator for Urban Development, in mid-October as she presented the interim report for the residential urban development master plan.1 The new urban development master plan is supposed to be completed by 2018, and the construction area gap of 15,000 flats will have to be closed by then.
The short supply in building land could be further exacerbated if Tegel Airport is not decommissioned as planned. During a referendum on 24 September 2017, the majority of Berlin’s population voted in favour of keeping Tegel Airport operational even after the new airport in Schönefeld (BER) goes live. The airport grounds in Tegel and in the immediately surrounding area is currently earmarked for the development of 9,000 flats overall.
New-Build Housing Development Needs to Gather Momentum
Senator Katrin Lompscher for Urban Development added that 20,000 flats will have to be completed in Berlin annually in the coming years in order to stay on top of the keen demand for housing in the city. By 2022, the completion rate can be scaled back to around 10,000 new flats annually. At the moment, the situation is marked by pent-up demand on a massive scale because the number of flats raised between 2013 and 2016 fell short of the mark by around 77,000 residential units.
But to achieve the target of 20,000 new-build flats per year, housing development in Berlin seriously needs to pick up the pace. In 2016, only 13,659 apartments were completed in the city. This summer, the state office for statistics let it be known that the number of planning permissions had actually suffered a year-on-year decline during the first half-year of 2017.2 Then again, housing construction gathered considerable momentum during the summer months, so that the number of new flats approved during the first eight months showed a one-year increase by around eleven percent, rising from 14,404 at the end of the prior-year period to 16,014 by the end of August 2017.3 It is now of the essence to sustain this trend if the demand for new housing is to be met long-term.
Remember Further Densification
Zoning new building land is an important step in the right direction, but one must not lose sight of the option of further densification in a major city like Berlin. Between January and August 2017, the issuance of planning permits for restructuring projects in residential buildings went against the overall trend in Berlin, as the number of permits dropped from 998 to 949 year on year.