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Residential Floor Space Consumption on the Rise

The average dwelling floor area available to every German in 2019 was 47 square metres. The per-capita floor space consumption has been going up steadily over the past years. In 2018, the dwelling floor area per resident equalled 46.7 square metres, up from just 45 square metres in 2010. This implies a 4.4-percent increase in the per-capita consumption over a ten-year period. The dwelling floor area per household has increased as well. Flats in Germany had an average footprint of 91.9 square metres in 2019, and increased by an average of one square metre since 2010. This is the gist of figures recently released by the Federal Statistical Office (destatis).1

The increased floor space consumption per resident coincides with the downward trend in the number of persons per household. The average number of persons per household declined from 2.27 to 1.99 between 1991 and 2018. During the same period, the number of single-person households in Germany grew by 46 percent and the number of two-person households by 29 percent. By contrast, the number of households with more than two people decreased by 20 percent. Single-person households now account for a 42-percent share of all private households.2

Increased Floor Space Consumption Drives Demand for Residential Accommodation

The trends toward a higher per-capita floor space consumption and toward households with fewer persons clearly boost the demand for residential accommodation and further exacerbate the shortage in available housing. Which is yet another reason why housing construction in Germany should be accelerated and expanded.

While progress is being made in housing construction, its pace remains sluggish. In 2019, a total of 293,000 flats were completed, which is good because it is roughly two percent more than the year before. But the Federal Government’s stated target benchmark of 1.5 million units completed between 2018 and 2021 has become unattainable. For what it’s worth, the planning approval figures have lately followed an upward trend. During the first five months of this year, 4.2 percent more flats were approved than had been the case during the prior-year period.3 This continues the trend started in 2019, when 360,600 flats had been approved, a one-year increase by 4.0 percent.

Unexpected Hike in Berlin’s Planning Approval Figures

Meanwhile, Berlin registered—somewhat unexpectedly—an increase in the number of planning consents that were issued during the first year of 2020. Between January and June, a total of 12,788 flats were approved, which is 12.7 percent more than during the prior-year period, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office. The increase was particularly steep in the multi-family housing construction segment, as the number of approved flats in multi-dwelling units rose by 18.9 percent.4

As recently as 2019, planning consents had declined. By the end of that year, the number of flats approved for development had dropped by seven percent to 22,524 units. Planning approval figures had also gone down in the years 2018 and 2017. It now looks as if 2020 might bring a trend reversal – although it is probably a good idea to wait with a final assessment until the figures for the second half-year are in.5