Berlin Builds Fewer Flats than Planned
Berlin’s Senate Government, composed of Social Democrats, Left Party and Greens, originally promised the new-build construction of 30,000 state-owned flats before the end of the parliamentary term in 2021. But as Katrin Lompscher (The Left), Senator for Urban Development, had to admit just now, actual completions will fall well short of the mark.1 Instead of 30,000 new flats, the new target will be to complete at least 25,000 municipal flats by 2021—but even this far less ambitious mark could prove unattainable.
The background to this is that the city’s own housing companies let it be known within a week after Lompscher’s admission that even the new target would be hard to reach. They project a completions total of 24,032 new flats, at a maximum, by the end of the parliamentary term.2 This would be 20 percent below the figure of “at least” 30,000 flats that was written into the coalition agreement of Social Democrats, The Left and Greens.
Far Fewer Local Development Plans Passed
In response to the sluggish housing construction, the Senator for Urban Development has been getting flak again. The Lord Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller (Social Democrats), still does not seem prepared to give up the target of 30,000 flats just yet, despite the protestations of the municipal housing companies that it is unachievable.3 It is not the first time in the current parliamentary term that Müller and Lompscher have been at odds over the issue of housing construction.
What exacerbates the housing construction dilemma in Berlin is the steep decline in local development plans approved by city hall.4 As the Tagesspiegel daily reported, a total of 48 local development plans were approved in Berlin under the previous Senator for Urban Development, Andreas Geisel (Social Democrats), as recently as 2016, whereas last year’s figure was less than half of that.
Housing Construction Lags Behind Demand
Meanwhile, a look at the statistics reveals not just that the state-owned housing companies have immense problems to achieve the targets set by the body politic but also that housing construction in Berlin in general trails far behind demand. According to a forecast by the Senate itself suggests that no less than 20,000 new flats would actually have to be built annually between now and 2021.5 But only 15,669 new flats were completed in 2017 (no completions figures being available yet for 2018), and the number of planning consents issued are not reassuring either. In fact, the latter figure decreased by 3.7 percent year on year during the first three quarters of 2018.6
One of the key reasons that is often cited for the sluggish pace of new-build construction in the German capital is the short supply in zoned land. However, as the Tagesspiegel also reported, there are a number of open areas left that would accommodate larger residential projects, even in the central boroughs.7