VFour years ago the Federal Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer (CSU), who was also responsible for housing policy, said that housing is the social issue of the present. In hindsight you think: What a paradise those were. Yes, the queues for viewings of apartments were sometimes long. And even in Berlin, which was once so cheap, rents were suddenly charged at 10 euros per square meter. But compared to today, those were minor problems. Housing will only become a real social issue this year.
The economic consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine are no longer abstract. Citizens feel them at gas stations, in supermarkets, but above all when they look at their utility bills. The monthly advance payments are still moderate in many cases, but that will change. The Central Association of the Housing Industry predicts up to 5,000 euros in additional costs for energy for a family of four this year. A drop in the night-time apartment temperature by one degree will not change that much, as Germany’s largest housing group Vonovia has now announced.
The rising additional costs are not the only annoyance. Because both construction prices and interest costs are rising rapidly, rents for new apartments are also increasing. In large cities, the 20-euro mark per square meter has long been exceeded, now the same threatens in medium-sized cities. For average earners, the supply of living space remains as scarce as ever – as does the frustration of looking for an apartment.
It would be time for the traffic light coalition to admit that the target of 400,000 new apartments per year cannot be met under these circumstances. It would also be time for a debate about whether the increasingly stringent efficiency requirements for houses really benefit the climate as much as they cost the builders and tenants. Experts have legitimate doubts about this. It is understandable that the Greens do not want to have this discussion as well. But given the force with which rising housing costs are hitting people, silence is not a solution.