Rents are shooting up in major cities, and with high interest rates and a lack of skilled workers, the government’s plan to build 400,000 new homes a year is beginning to look like an impossible dream.
According to Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD), however, there’s an untapped resource that could help Germany tackle its worsening housing crisis: the some 1.7 million empty homes across the country.
But while these homes could help take the pressure off the rental market, it’s unclear whether they’ll truly ease the worsening situation in cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. Why? Because the vast majority of them are located in the countryside.
READ ALSO: Why Germany is seeing the ‘worst housing shortage in 20 years’
Speaking to the Funke Media Group on Wednesday, Geywitz said the government was now looking to encourage people to exchange their urban lifestyle for life in a more rural setting.
“Rural areas offer a high quality of life, away from the noise of the big city – especially for families with children,” the Housing Minister explained.
If these rural regions can be made more attractive for people, it would lower the demand for properties in the cities, she added.
Train services and home office
Since the Covid pandemic, flexible and remote working have become far more widespread, but Geywitz wants home office to be even more widely available as part of her push to make life in the countryside more attractive.
In addition, the Housing Minister wants better digital infrastructure in areas outside of cities and has also set her sights on better transport connections.
On Tuesday, Geywitz signed an administrative agreement that will see hundreds of million poured into town centres.
“In 2023 alone, we will again provide €790 million to finance projects for the preservation of inner cities and town centres and to make towns and communities more liveable,” she said.
The move was welcomed by the Association of Town and Cities, which on Tuesday called on the government to do more to ease the housing crisis.
“It’s sensible to make rural regions more accessible with good transport connections, for example through new or reactivated railway lines, so that people can live and reside there happily and cheaply,” said chief executive Gerd Landsberg.
“With calls for ever cheaper rents or even a nationalisation of housing companies, we are unfortunately not getting any closer to the goal,” he said, adding that the need for housing, especially in metropolitan regions, was growing unabated.
The Association also sees potential for migration to the countryside due to far more people working from home since the pandemic.
READ ALSO: How better rural transport could help solve Germany’s housing crisis
Popular among the young
A recent study by the regional portal meinestadt.de also showed that, amongst young people, the idea of moving to a more peaceful life in the countryside is gaining popularity.
Of the 3,000 people between the ages of 18 and 31 surveyed, 61 percent said they would rather live in the countryside than in an urban area, and 77 percent would prefer a quiet location to a central one. In addition to the idyllic countryside with its peace and tranquillity, around half of them also associate living in the countryside with affordable housing.
This could be set to increase further with the introduction of the €49-a-month Deutschlandticket. This new transport offer, which launches on May 1st, will allow people to use regional and local trains all over the country for a single monthly fee.
READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany’s new €49 ticket app
Yeah sure Herr Minister Geywitz: please come to the Rhein-Main Gebiet and talk with the DB and RMV executives about the S-Bahn lines around Frankfurt… Good luck with that.