An alliance between public and private players in the real estate sectors has been set up in Cologne.1 Members of the “Kölner Wohnbündnis” alliance include the City of Cologne, the Workshop of Cologne Housing Companies (“köln ag”), the Housing Construction Initiative (“WIK”), the Association of Home and Land Owners in Cologne (“Haus und Grund”), the state chapter for North Rhine-Westphalia of the Federal Association of Independent Property and Housing Companies (“BFW”) and the Housing Industry Association of Rhineland-Westphalia (“VDW-RW”).
Cologne’s Housing Alliance Aims to Create 6,000 Flats Annually
According to city hall, the alliance is supposed to focus on the “creation of additional housing accommodation, primarily in the form of affordable flats in multi-dwelling units.” This is to be made possible by a closer and expanded collaboration between public and private players, plus by setting a common agenda. The stakeholders involved intend to raise 6,000 new flats annually to alleviate the housing shortage in Cologne. The agreement, which was concluded in late November 2017, is to remain in effect through 2030. In 2016, just 2,387 new residential units were completed in Cologne. During that same year planning permits for 3,767 flats were issued.2
To boost construction, the City of Cologne announced several measures. From the perspective of Cologne’s real estate sector, the shortage in building land as well as the time-consuming permit procedures represent the most pressing issues, which is why additional sites potentially suitable for residential development are to be mobilised and zoning procedures to be sped up. A housing coordination office, whose chief purpose is to abbreviate the planning and permit procedures, has already been established.3 In other metropolises, such as Hamburg and Berlin, such coordination offices have already existed for quite some time.
Hamburg the Forerunner
The housing alliance of Cologne is not the first of its kind in a German metropolis. A similar arrangement has been in place in Hamburg for a number of years. Hamburg’s Senate, housing industry associations and tenant associations, among other stakeholders, formed the “Alliance for Housing in Hamburg” in 2011. In summer 2016, it was renewed with more ambitious goals.4 Just like in Cologne, the core objective of the agreement in Hamburg is to boost housing construction. No less than 10,000 new flats are supposed to be completed each year. According to the city, streamlined permit procedures, the provision of affordable land in municipal ownership and an increase in the housing subsidies are meant to help achieve this goal.
Berlin, by contrast, has no such a housing alliance between business and body politic, and there is nothing to suggest that Berlin’s policymakers are making any effort to set one up. While there is a collaboration agreement between Berlin’s Senate and the six municipal housing associations, it does not include Berlin’s private housing industry. Neither does the working body of 24 experts that has been busy drafting a participation guidance for building projects since October 2017 include any housing industry representatives.5 Berlin’s real estate sector has frequently lamented therefore that the dialogue between housing industry and body politic is being neglected.