The housing development potential hidden in land reserves in Berlin proper and the greater Berlin area would suffice to create up to 218,000 new flats. The total volume breaks down into 153,000 flats in the German capital and 65,000 in the suburbs. This is the upshot of the latest housing market report for Berlin and its greater area (“Berlin und Umland”) that the IBB Investment Bank Berlin presented on 08 March.1
According to the IBB, the population of the 50 suburban communities on Berlin's periphery is growing at more or less the same pace as the city. Between 2012 and 2016, the demographic growth in the suburbs was 5.6 percent, compared to 5.9 percent in Berlin proper. The report goes on to say that, while the housing demand in Berlin’s greater area has seen a proportionate increase, the construction activity lags far behind that of the city. Specifically, “the completions volume in Berlin grew 3.5 times since 2007 to a total of 13,659 flats by 2016, whereas the completions rate in the suburbs increased only 1.5 times to the latest completions figure of 6,752.”
The town with the biggest development potential outside Berlin is Potsdam with around 13,600 flats, followed by Schönefeld with 4,700 residential units, Falkensee (3,600) and Bernau (2,900). That being said, the IBB pointed out that the potential identified in Berlin and its greater area is merely a hypothetical figure. Raising the potential would require major political efforts. If the potential in the greater Berlin area was to be activated, “a swift expansion of the transport and social infrastructure would also be indispensable,” as the IBB emphasised.
Berlin’s Senate Government Remains at Loggerheads over Housing Policy
The situation implies major challenges, most of all for Berlin’s urban development master plan. Yet for the time being, the row between Michael Müller, the Social Democrat Lord Mayor of Berlin, and Katrin Lompscher, the Senator for Urban Development and a member of The Left, continues. Müller recently told the Tagesspiegel, one of the city’s dailies, that he is “staying on top of the urban development subject” and trying to keep “us from plunging into crisis over the housing construction issue.” Apparently, he also wants to put the perimeter development of the former airport grounds in Tempelhof back on the agenda.2 In recent months, Müller indicated more than once that he is dissatisfied with the one-sided focus on tenant protection that defines the housing policy of Katrin Lompscher, and that he would like to make a greater effort to integrate the private construction and housing industry. According to the Tagesspiegel, Müller has increasingly intervened in the urban development politics, and intends to take charge of housing construction altogether. For example, he personally conducted talks with the state-owned housing companies on the subject of housing construction, we well as with the discount supermarket operators on the subject of supermarket construction. As recently as February, the Senate decreed a new procedure for conflict resolutions involving major construction projects, and Müller’s Senate Chancellery played a key role in the process.3 Moreover, Berlin’s Social Democrats recently criticised the “stand-alone focus of state politics on public sector companies” and demanded “a reliable partnership” between the Senate and the private housing industry.4