Germany faces massive shortfall in refugee housing

The lack of housing could lead to more people having to sleep rough, as Berlin struggles to house the large number of new arrivals. [Joel Schalit/Flickr]

Accommodation for asylum seekers is increasingly hard to come by, and the refugees who arrived last year will soon need tens of thousands of additional homes, warned experts. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Housing is an increasingly difficult issue to manage in Germany, and authorities are struggling to house the refugees that have been admitted into the country. Most currently live in temporary lodgings, while local municipalities attempt to find something more permanent. If the issue is going to be resolved, then there needs to be a national rethink, said experts.

Just for the refugees that arrived in Germany last year, between 60,000 and 125,000 additional dwellings will be needed, according to a report by the Robert Bosch committee on refugee policy. Last year, the Institute of the German Economy (IW) in Cologne even predicted higher figures, forecasting the need for 430,000 homes for 800,000 refugees.

Although the exact numbers are still not confirmed, it seems that the German housing market is likely to come under immense pressure.

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“We must make sure that a battle over affordable housing does not develop in Germany,” warned Armin Laschet, a member of the expert committee. “Therefore, we need to act now and enable rapid investment in the housing sector, from both public and private funds,” he added.

The findings of the Robert Bosch study therefore called for a massive expansion of public housing, with federal, regional and local authorities promoting affordable housing together. To facilitate this, laws regarding construction, the environment and public procurement should be relaxed.

“Now is the time where we have to plot the right course, so that our society can meet the challenges posed by the refugee crisis,” said the Bosch Foundation’s Uta-Micaela Dürig.

Minimum standards

In terms of living standards, the committee recommended that minimum standards for shared accommodation be adopted nationwide. Among the suggestions they floated were health centres, separate sleeping and shower facilities for men and women, and rooms for language classes and childcare.

In terms of allocating more permanent accommodation, the committee came up with a new allocation formula that takes into account the labour market, demographics and the existing housing market.

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In addition, the experts recommended that other forms of accommodation be promoted with regional and state funds.

For example, civil society initiatives, in which refugees are offered lodging in private homes, could be far more effective and successful if more human financial resources were made available.

Due to the fact that land is at a premium, cities such as Berlin and Hamburg have already started utilising vacant apartments in order to house refugees. Abandoned housing estates in the former DDR are getting their first tenants in over two decades, as east German cities such as Magdeburg look to revitalise crumbling public properties.

Tübingen mayor Boris Palmer (Greens) announced that new builds would only be ready in the second half of the year and that, “Unfortunately, around 90% of vacant dwelling owners still refuse to make them available.”

German municipalities are working hard to avoid mistakes, such as the placement of refugees in former concentration camps, such as Dachau, near Munich, last summer.

>>Read: Confirmation: Germany welcomed 1 million refugees in 2015

As Germany struggles to cope with the numbers that arrived in 2015, it remains to be seen how the Bundesrepublik will handle the amount of refugees that are still making their way via the Western Balkans.

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