The annual GdW conference on November 14th, 2017 in Berlin focused on the increasing differences between booming large cities and depleting regions. GdW president Axel Gedaschko called for a joint effort of the federal government and the “Länder” (federal states) with a focus on rural areas. The idea is to identify “anchor cities”, medium-sized cities of 20.000 to 100.000 inhabitants that have continued to develop their trade, communication and meeting areas in the last decades.
The urbanization trend of especially young people has hit all rural areas throughout Germany, even where economically strong and where a work-related need for emigration is not existent. As Mr. Gedaschko pointed out, the common perception is that shrinking regions are poor and without job opportunities. On the contrary, however, it seems that lots of companies are complaining about the lack of suitable workforce, which has gone to live in more dynamic and thriving cities.
According to Gedaschko “poly-centricity” should be the new overall concept in Germany. In the long-term, cities are only attractive if they offer a variety of services such as health, medical, education and entertainment. In order to achieve this, funds need to be made available to increase the attractiveness of shrinking regions and to take away the pressure from metropolises. A local approach regarding construction is needed as well as active land policies for anchor cities.
Promotion of residential property should only be given for purchase, retrofitting or replacement building of owner-occupied property. New construction at the outskirts nourishes only a “donut effect” in downtown areas – vacancies in the city centre and uncontrolled development in the periphery.
However, the internet and the digital infrastructure in rural areas need to be up to speed as in large cities. Instead of a narrow focus on the smart city, a national plan needs to be developed to create a smart country. New urban planning, taxation and funding, infrastructure development and digital appliances are imperative. Fast internet is a prerequisite to participate in social life. Fast internet is also not an end in itself, but a compulsory requirement and a basic human need such as water, electricity and heating.
Together with the Bundesstiftung Baukultur, GdW is pleading to earmark the funds and to concentrate them on sustainable areas.
Axel Gedaschko concluded by naming the most pressing issues:
- more and especially affordable plots
- fewer standards and less regulation
- a renunciation of the ever increasing taxation of property and real estate transfer.
A lasting financial responsibility of the federal government for social housing post 2019 is required.
For the next government in place, GdW proposes a master plan for a solid housing policy:
- Create a Federal Ministry for construction carrying weight
- Giving priority to housing construction
- Reduce construction costs
- Make construction conditions suitable
- Maintain a balanced rental law
- Encourage social responsibility
- Adapt tax regulations to reality
- Public funding contributes to affordable housing
- Strengthen rural areas
- Federal and flexible programs towards integration
- Affordable climate policy
- Engage tenants in the energy transition
- Deconstruction at national level
- Age-friendly homes