WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022

: Issue 03/2022

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 179-187

Walter Siebel

The Housing Question


The housing question was formulated in the face of the fundamental societal changes of industrial urbanisation in the 19th century. Today, it has gained high priority yet again. From the very beginning, the housing question has encompassed two aspects: how to define standards of decent housing and how to make such adequate housing available for all people? Both questions cannot be conclusively answered. The questions are repeatedly renewed in the course of social and political change. However, what one might call the “unanswerability of the housing question” does not imply that housing policy has no affect. The article describes four different phases of housing politics in Germany to demonstrate this: The politicisation of the housing question before 1914, the “golden age of housing politics” in the Weimar Republic, the withdrawal of state housing interventions and the commodification of housing in the FRG, and the financialisation of the housing market since 2000. Finally, the author propounds some arguments regarding the “unanswerability of the housing question” and puts forward reflections on relevant issues for labour union politics. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 188-196

Martin Kronauer

Housing as Part of the Social Question


The housing question in German cities manifests itself in the shortage of affordable housing for an ever-increasing section of inhabitants. It is part of the new social question: the growing divide in German society. The housing issue exacerbates the social consequences of the inequal development of income and wealth. It is to be observed in the inequality of rental levels, restrictions in the choice of housing and includes exposing individuals to the risk of eviction. In addition, low-income households are concentrated in neighbourhoods that contribute to their disadvantages. The article argues that issues of housing, employment and income, public infrastructure and services together constitute the housing question and have to be tackled accordingly. It also discusses the responsibilities which the local authorities will be faced with when having to deal with the situation. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 197-204

Susanne Heeg

Financial Investors on the German Housing Market


During the 1990s, the formerly publicly financed and social housing in Germany was sold on a large scale to financial market players whose business models were initially based primarily on the so-called Hartz IV concept. In the meantime, returns are increased by “optimising” the housing stock. This includes constant rent increases, modernisation, administrative automation and the standardisation of operating procedures. The article examines the marketisation and financialisation of the non-profit housing stock after 1990. For this purpose, fundamental changes in the management of the (formerly) non-profit housing companies as well as the opening of the housing field for financial market actors – made possible by financial market liberalisation – are taken into account. This serves to analyse the implementation of new logics of exploitation in large financial market-based housing companies and their relationship to tenants, who have become passive customers. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 205-212

Saskia Gränitz

Between Home and Homelessness. Dimensions of New Housing Hardships


The housing question is back. Displacement and segregation, the increasing burden of housing costs, a growing sublet market and the deterioration of housing quality through disinvestment are just some of the indications for the thesis that a “grey zone of housing hardship” is spreading into the so-called middle class. The threshold to homelessness is also getting closer. The article classifies qualitative dimensions of insecure, inadequate, deprived, cramped or overcrowded, pauperised and endangered housing situations. All these types of housing hardship are characterised by the fact that, although there is a roof overhead, established standards of decent housing are being violated. In times of the housing crisis the article argues in favour of a broader concept of housing hardship, which includes living situations that are not even defined as homelessness, with the aim of bringing back the housing question to the political agenda. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 213-222

Matthias Waltersbacher

Empirical Analyses of the Situation on the Housing Market in Germany


High housing costs have become a major problem on German real estate markets as a result of a decade-long housing boom. Rental levels for new lets have risen sharply and rents from existing tenancy agreements have increasingly bowed to the pressure of tight housing markets, resulting in increased rents in many major cities. This article seeks to delve deeper into the situation of households suffering under the housing shortage by examining several selected housing indicators. First, it assesses rental increases in detail, which are particularly acute in the southern German regions. Second, it discusses the available living space per person, a classic indicator for describing housing provision. The results of a multivariate regression show that household size is the decisive factor for housing supply, followed by the distinction between owner households and tenant households. Surprisingly, however, the differences between diverse administrative districts are not decisive in explaining the dispersion. Lastly, the article shows that in recent years it is particularly larger tenant households in metropolitan regions that have come under pressure. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 223-234

Markus Eltges, Antonia Milbert

Inequalities in Living Conditions between Cities and the Countryside


The quality of life does not end at the front door. Living quality is also connected to the regional living conditions. For this reason, the article examines the different living conditions in cities and the countryside as well as in west and east Germany. In addition, the authors ask how the living conditions differ in regions where outward migration is prevalent from those with population gains, because demographic development is still the cause, and one of the most important drivers, of the spatial differentiation of living conditions. First, the components of the demographic trends – external and internal migration, natural population change – are analysed in more detail against the backdrop of west and east Germany, urban and rural areas as well as the demographic types, which are created specifically for this purpose. Then the following aspects are considered in regard to spatial differences: the age and social structure of the population, labour markets and the development of jobs and the situation of housing and services of general interest. The federal governments of the 19th and 20th legislative periods emphasise the importance of equal living conditions and aim to reduce politically unacceptable inequalities. This task requires the coordination between sector-specific policies, between federal and state policies and has also to involve commercial enterprises. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 235-242

Dieter Läpple

Housing, Labour and Climate Change. Theses on a Tense Relationship


The current housing problem cannot be reduced to a single cause – such as, for example, a growing pressure of demand. The housing problem, as the author of this article argues, is the result of a multiple crisis constellation, in which various problems occur simultaneously in a mutually reinforcing manner. Notably the commodification of rented housing, the increase of precarious jobs, the sharp cost jumps in the construction industry, a financialisation of the land market, the high dependency of the housing sector on fossil energy as well as the decreasing planning capacity of cities as a result of neoliberal transformations. Since state and cities in recent decades have been gradually withdrawing from their responsibility for decent and socially just housing provision, a new starting point and a re-politisation of the housing question is needed. Cities and a communal land policy should play a key role. But first, a political will to use the existing instruments and to integrate the residents in the decisions is needed. Faced with the great challenges of the social question and the question of climate change, not only is greater responsibility on the side of the state needed, but a fundamental redefinition of the role of the state is required. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 243-250

Andrej Holm

Projects, Instruments and Concepts of an Alternative Housing Policy. New Forms of Common Public Interests, Cooperatives and Housing as Social Infrastructure


Social, environmental, and demographic housing challenges affect all of society, but they face a predominantly privately organised housing market. The implementation of goals for the common good in the field of housing require – as the author demonstrates – the decommodification and democratisation of housing to the greatest extent possible. Referring to experiences of cooperative and collective housing, forms of non-profit housing and concepts of organising housing as social infrastructure, it is shown that a social and affordable housing provision beyond market logics is possible. The prerequisite for the implementation of projects and ideas of a social housing provision is the political confrontation with the profit-oriented housing industry, a public commitment to a public responsibility for social housing supply and the establishment of new infrastructures for the well-being of society, as well as an overcoming of property and market ideologies which determine the ideas of housing in the everyday consciousness as well as in state action. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 243-250

Ricarda Pätzold, Stephan Reiß-Schmidt

The Question of Housing has always (also) been a Question of Land


Substantial land price increases in major cities since the global financial crisis, higher rents and a lack of affordable building land have not only exacerbated the housing crisis in the past decade, but also the concentration of wealth among the 10 per cent of wealthiest households. The insufficient weighting of the common good, already laid down in the 1960 Federal Building Act, limits the scope of active municipal land policy. In the professional policy debate, there is strong demand for a public welfare-oriented land turnaround with more effective municipal steering instruments (not only for affordable housing, but also for climate protection and other common goods). more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2022, pp. 254-256

Patrick Schreiner, Maximilian Fuhrmann

Housing Policy – a Trade Union Issue!


Trade unions organise not only members living in rented accommodation, but also home owners. Nevertheless, trade union housing policy accurately directs its focus on public, affordable housing that serves the interests of the general well-being of society. One reason for this is the concern expressed by many trade union members in connection with rising rents and displacement on the housing market. Trade unions also follow the premise of solidarity – and bear in mind the distributive effects of these factors: rent is predominantly financed by those with low and middle incomes, largely from wages. Those who benefit from rental payments are mostly households in the higher levels of the hierarchy of wealth. more … (in German)