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Virtually No Vacant Flats Left in Germany's Big Cities

Available apartments became a rare commodity on the markets of major German cities in 2015. That year, vacancy rates in the metropolises Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main and Munich dropped below one percent. But the supply in available accommodation was also drying up in other growing metro areas. The average share of vacant flats in Germany's major corporate cities was down to just 1.9 percent in 2015. And the downward trend continues. These figures are based on calculations done by the BBSR Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development. The official stats represent a forward projection of the vacancy data obtained through the building and housing census of 2011.

Residential Vacancy Rate below Five Percent Nationwide

Across Germany, the vacancy rate for housing accommodation dropped by 0.5 percent year on year in 2015, down to 4.5 percent. This implies a concrete figure of 1.8 million flats available on the market. In all of the 16 German states, the number of vacant flats was generally lower in 2015 than it had been in 2014. Yet vacancy rates differed from one state to the next, being highest in the eastern non-city states of Saxony-Anhalt (11.3 percent), Saxony (10.1 percent) and Thuringia (8.4 percent). Particularly hard hit by residential vacancies are those regions that have suffered sustained population losses for years. Conversely, the number of vacant homes in the classic growth regions has continued to decline. The lowest rates were registered in the non-city states Baden-Württemberg (3.5 percent), North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria (both 3.8 percent).

No Relief for the Housing Market in Sight

The BBSR Institute estimates that the major German cities will sustain their current demographic growth. The target mark of 400,000 new homes to be completed annually across Germany will be missed again in 2016, as far as current market evidence suggests. According to industry experts, the annual completions rate of 2016 could not have exceeded a maximum of 300,000 new flats. The shortfall will further compound the existing housing deficit. Given the growing demand for housing in the country's metro regions and the upward rent growth, the strain on the German housing market is not about to be relieved.

Industry insiders therefore expect the construction of rental housing and owner-occupied homes for families with children and medium-income households to be a key topic during the 2017 general election campaign in Germany.