Fewer and Fewer Planning Permissions in Berlin
While the enormous demand for housing in Berlin persists and while this will be another year of demographic growth for the city, housing construction in the German capital is rapidly running out of steam. During the first three quarters of 2019, the number of flats approved dropped by 10.7 percent over prior-year period.1 Planning approval figures had already followed a downward trend in 20182 and 20173 but at minus 2.1 and 1.2 percent, respectively, they did not drop nearly as fast as during the first nine months of 2019.
Especially during the third quarter, the numbers took a regular nosedive. During the first two quarters, approvals merely decreased by 4.8 percent, with the down trend accelerating thereafter. In September 2019, fewer than 800 flats were approved, down from 1,300 as recently as September 2018.4 Business representatives therefore see a link between the sharp decline in planning permits with the rent cap announced by city hall: This past June, the Senate of Berlin, consisting of a coalition of Social Democrats, the Left and Greens, had agreed on the key aspects of the rent control instrument.5
Infill Densification Declines Sharply
A particularly steep drop of minus 11.2 percent between January and September of this year was registered for the number of approved flats in multi-unit dwellings, which is, of course, the building type most common for rental flats, in contradistinction to detached and semi-detached homes. Similarly, the number of planning consents for flats created by retrofitting existing building—for instance through loft conversions—is free-falling. This is all the more alarming because both multi-unit dwellings and infill densification programs are essential for relieving the housing shortage in Berlin.
Conversely, the number of residential building permits issued in the districts surrounding Berlin keeps going up. Between January and September 2019, the number of flats approved in the surrounding state of Brandenburg rose by 19.1 percent. Investors evidently choose the suburbs as an alternative to the German capital in fast-growing numbers. The trend is matched by outbound overflow movements within the population that is probably motivated by the housing shortage: Figures released by the State Office for Statistics show that 7,569 people moved from the capital into Berlin’s periphery or the greater metro region.6
Construction Targets Remain Elusive
According to the 2018 IBB Housing Market Report, the supply shortage in Berlin is now up to 96,000 flats and if you include flats temporarily taken off the market, e.g. for modernisations, the total actually rises to 135,000 flats.7 If you follow the—optimistically conceived—urban development master plan for housing, an annual total of 20,000 flats would have to be built over the next few years to meet demand.8 This contrasts starkly with actual figure of 16,706 flats completed in 2018.9
4 www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/publikationen/stat_berichte/2019/SB_F02-01-00_2019m09_BE.pdf (S. 4)