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Small towns: chances, dynamics, potentials

(original title: Kleinstädte – Chancen, Dynamiken, Potenziale)



Cover: IzR 6/2018

Small towns are receiving little attention, although more than 2100 municipalities of this type of city and municipality exist according to the delimitation of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). 24.2 million people and hence approximately 30 percent of the German population live in small towns. Many small towns, particularly those near conurbations, have even grown in the past years.

However, research has neglected this for a long time. The image which the media have conveyed of the future of small German towns for many years was also sombre: no infrastructure, no shops, no people. The narratives remained one-sided: the small town is in the middle of nowhere, declines more and more and the processes are always slow.

The current issue intends to convey a more objective image. The authors show from different perspectives that small towns are very heterogeneous. They can be located in the centre or on the periphery, appear lively or deserted – and in many towns the pendulum does not really swing extremely in one direction or the other. Furthermore, there is a strongly underestimated dynamism: the supply of qualified employment is growing in many places. The rents are mostly lower than in large cities. And residents can participate more strongly in urban development than elsewhere.

However, the situation is not as positive in every small town. It is and remains a complex task to preserve this dynamism durably or even to create it anew. Small towns are living places and places of employment for different population groups; various lifestyles are leading to different demands. For instance, many residents call for small towns that are "urban". That means: a supermarket, a school or a hospital must be easily accessible, the internet must be quick.

This issue shows how small towns can remain and become liveable. The articles give an overview of the current and future situation and consider the challenges and chances. Under which conditions do small towns develop well economically? Which responsibility do local enterprises have? How does one live in small towns? And in what way can small towns be planned according to the needs?

All articles are in German.

Lars Porsche (,
Antonia Milbert, Daniel Regnery, Friederike Vogel