Social housing is disappearing despite billions in funding

In the past year, significantly more apartments with subsidized rents fell than new ones were built. At the end of 2018, there were almost 42,500 social housing in Germany fewer than a year earlier, a drop of 3.5 percent. This emerges from the response of the Ministry of Interior to a request from the left-wing fraction, which is available to the German Press Agency. All in all, almost 1.18 million social housing units were leased nationwide at the turn of the year.

In these apartments, the rents are regulated by the state and therefore comparatively low. Only people for whom the authorities see a special need may live there. The central criterion is household income. However, the income limits vary greatly from one federal state to another. As a rule, tenants may stay in social housing even if they earn more after a while.

The problem is that social housing does not stay social housing forever. After a certain period of time, usually after 30 years, they fall out of bond and can be leased to the market normally. Because only a few social housing units have been newly built for years since the 1980s, there is no substitute today. In the past 15 years, the number of subsidized apartments has been halved.

In the meantime, government subsidies mean that more social housing is being built again – but that is not enough to keep the total constant. In the past year alone, according to statistics, about 70,000 social housing units fell out of service nationwide, and around 27,000 were newly built.

The left-apartment expert Caren Lay, therefore, calls for a “rescue program for social housing.” Instead of reducing subsidies as planned, ten billion euros would have to be invested and 250,000 new social housing would be built.

In the past year, the federal government had provided the states around 1.5 billion euros for the so-called housing promotion. For 2020 and 2021 stood two billion euros ready, said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Construction. However, this support could only be added to funds of the Länder and municipalities, the countries themselves would have to assume their responsibility and promote social housing.

The trade union IG Bau, on the other hand, sees the federal government and the federal states alike as their duty. “The situation is dramatic,” said federal chairman Robert Feiger.

In large cities, between one third and one-half of households currently have a theoretical right to social housing.