The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Publication Strategies for residential areas at the periphery of the cities and in the surrounding areas

BBSR-Online-Publikation 38/09, Eds.: BMVBS/BBSR, December 2009

Series: BBSR-Online-Publikation Published: January 2010

empirica ag
Dr. Marie-Therese Krings-Heckemeier, Ludger Baba, Annamaria Schwedt, Katrin Kleinhans, Johanna Neuhoff

Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR), Bonn
Dr. Brigitte Adam


Results of the Quantitative Analyses and Empirical Investigations

Quantitative Relevance of the Housing Stocks from the 1960s and 1970s

With approximately 10 million, i.e. one third, of the homes in West Germany (excluding Berlin) having been constructed in the period between 1961 and 1980, this segment is of paramount importance to the supply of residential accommodation. If we also include housing developments from the 1950s in this figure, we find that a good half of the existing housing stock was constructed during this period.

The homogenous residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s, where the proportion of buildings that fall into the age group categorised as falling between 1961 and 1980 is 75% or higher, are primarily located in the city centres themselves and in the immediate surroundings. On average, the inhabitants of this housing are older and are more likely to have come from abroad. The residents dispose of a slightly above-average income per capita, which, among other reasons, is due to a lower proportion of children with no income.

Problematic Issues Specific to 1960s and 1970s Housing Stocks

  • The housing developments from the 1960s and 1970s were originally conceived for young families. As the inhabitants have aged, the demand for public infrastructure has changed. Since the changeover of generations in single-family/two-family houses progresses slowly (with elderly people wishing to remain in their homes as long as possible), the number of school pupils is falling. The consequence of this is that schools close down or scale down their capacities, which consequently means there is less motivation for families to move in.
  • The infrastructure of supply facilities in the homogenous residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s is far poorer than average. The number of retail businesses, banks, savings banks and doctors per 1,000 inhabitants only comes to about half of the average level of these facilities across all residential areas.
  • The inhabitants of the homogenous residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s are reliant upon good links to the local public transport system. However, as a consequence of the low population density, especially in the areas with a high proportion of single-family houses, it is often not economically feasible to make improvements to the supply of public transport.
  • Since the owners of rental units are interested in making their housing stocks sufficiently attractive over the long term to enable elderly people to remain in their homes even when their level of mobility becomes increasingly restricted, they typically consider redevelopment measures. However, there are often economic limits on redeveloping units to adapt them to the needs of the elderly, either due to the costs not being viable, or due to technical and structural restrictions, which mean that any redevelopment measures would incur significant expense.
  • As soon as the housing market in the respective region slackens off, there are significant levels of vacancy in the high-rise buildings. The reasons for this include the high service charges and anonymity in these large buildings. As a rule, as soon as the first units fall vacant, attention is no longer paid to finding a socially compatible mix of residents for the buildings. This results in a high proportion of "problematic" tenants moving in. As a consequence, tensions arise between the original occupants and the new tenants. The tower blocks then become stigmatized and have a negative impact on their surroundings.
  • As a rule, young families do not move into the residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s, since the areas do not feature any family-oriented building typologies. This is generally the case if the original occupants continue to live in single-family houses even when the children have left home and their partner has died. In the case of the flats located in the same residential area, the tenants change more frequently (greater fluctuation than in the case of single-family houses), yet these flats often fail to satisfy the preferences of families, who are looking for a single-family house or a level of quality that matches that of a single-family house.

Different Types of Areas and Required Action

In regard to developments in the marketability of the residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s, it is important to note that there are various different types of area.

D. Areas that have a sustainable future and that "sell themselves"

These comprise residential areas at the periphery of the cities or in the surrounding areas that exclusively contain single-family/two-family houses. These areas have not so far featured any structurally significant vacancy levels. Nevertheless, in some cases prices are being reduced from the price levels originally conceived by the sellers.

Residential areas in highly popular zones at the periphery of the cities are also marketable. This applies to housing market regions, in which certain areas (e.g. the historical centre) have become dilapidated (e.g. due to a decline in industry) while the residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s, assuming they are landscaped and highly accessible to traffic and transportation, are seen as highly appealing in comparison to other inner-city zones.

E. Residential areas with development potential

If single-family/two-family houses are the dominant type of construction in a residential area, then the percentage of older people often tends to increase. Due to much higher levels of older people (fewer inhabitants), the local infrastructure is then deficient. Local authorities have to manage the situation in certain ways, for example by ensuring that existing families remain and/or that new families move in. There is also a greater motivation to take measures to improve the single-family houses if the area is generally considered to be appealing. Individuals are only disposed to act if they feel sure that the overall area is marketable.

Even residential areas with a predominance of multi-family housing can be turned into marketable areas with the aid of careful management by local authorities. This applies if the region is economically stable. The conditions are particularly favourable if there are not too many owners. Collaboration among the various owners and management by the local authorities are of key importance.

F. Problematic residential areas

Future marketability becomes problematic when it comes to residential areas with a high proportion of multi-family housing with many owners. The development measures that are required to upgrade or stabilise the area as a whole are difficult to coordinate in these cases.

Whilst there are currently no generalised marketing difficulties for single-family/two-family houses, the situation is different for multi-family housing. Since tenants feel less of a bond with the residential area in comparison to owners, an easing-off of the housing market generally sees significant fluctuation in the case of multi-family housing. This changes the composition of the population (e.g. the proportion of households with a migration background increases). This is particularly applicable to cases where, for cost reasons, it is not possible to redevelop the existing housing, regardless of whether this redevelopment would be for the benefit of the elderly or for families. There is the further, specific problem that some of the flats in these buildings feature layouts and sizes that are not suited to today's living conditions. The sizes of the living rooms and kitchens (above all in social housing constructed in the 1960s and 1970s) do not correspond to today's needs, or, to take another example, the square footage may be too high for recipients of unemployment benefit, yet too low for families with children. Outside support is required if redevelopment proves to be unviable.

The marketability of single-family and two-family houses remains virtually unfettered at the pre-sent, even in structurally weaker areas. Their marketability will only come into question over the long term, if demand also shrinks for single-family and two-family houses in economically weaker regions. However, the assumption is that this will not happen to any significant degree over the next 10 years. In addition, the prices take on a control function, since falling demand for single-family houses also results in falling prices. This increasingly puts families with lower incomes, who are currently still living in multi-family buildings, into a financial position where they can buy or rent single-family houses. This results in an additional shifting in demand from multi-family housing to single-family homes, which, over the long term, would then lead to an increase in the number of vacant flats. In these cases, support from local authorities (financial and staffing support) is only required over the long term.

The theory that falling popularity, vacant units and a concentration of households from poorer economic brackets in mixed residential areas will also have a negative influence on the areas containing single-family houses hardly applies at all. Although these kinds of situations, or at least the early signs, have been seen in other areas, the primary need for action in this case is not in the arena of single-family houses, but rather in the arena of flats.


Recommendations for Protagonists at a Local Level

Management by local authorities is required over the medium to long term in the areas with development potential. The following measures could be initiated or undertaken by the local authorities:

  • Carefully-timed management of residential developments for young families (designation of sites as building land in or adjacent to residential areas from the 1960s and 1970s)
  • Incentives to convert single-family/two-family houses into units that cater to the needs of the elderly and/or to build new units on the plots of single-family houses; minimising restrictions on planning permission
  • Facilitating the construction of family-oriented housing as infill development in the form of annexes/extensions or as a "second row" on the spacious plot of a single-family house; minimising restrictions on planning permission
  • Improvements to the residential environment (e.g. cycle paths); safe places for children to spend time in close proximity to their homes
  • Accompanying provisions for the elderly (social planning for senior citizens) and infrastructure for families (childcare)
  • Innovative approaches to safeguarding the supply of everyday services (research and initia-tives to promote innovative retail concepts, such as establishing a supermarket from the "CAP" chain, which strives to integrate disabled people, as a trial within a framework of pilot schemes)
  • Facilitating greater mobility for elderly residents and families (e.g. radio taxis)
  • Examining and, where necessary, improving the education situation (good schools) in mixed-use areas with a proportion of households from poorer economic brackets (with migration backgrounds) in order to ensure there are no impediments to the generational changeover in single-family houses (i.e. families moving in)
  • Initiating co-operation between schools and other local protagonists (including the housing industry) to increase identification with the districts (e.g. initiating so-called "city forums" (Stadtforen))

Upgrading and development of problematic multi-family housing can primarily be managed by the owners, though the local authorities can apply a guiding influence. The following solutions are conceivable:

  • Redevelopment of existing buildings to satisfy target group requirements. Surveys of residents initiated by local authorities and organising of events (e.g. future workshops)
  • Privatisation of existing housing stocks (check demand, e.g. by conducting a survey of experts and residents)
  • Investigating the possibility of constructing new buildings that satisfy target group requirements (check demand, e.g. by conducting a survey of experts and residents, identifying potential)
  • Acquisition of investors for the construction of new buildings that satisfy target group requirements in the form of additional or infill development
  • Initiating co-operation between different owners and other local protagonists
  • Developing overall concepts for the areas (e.g. urban improvement strategies) in the form of competitions, measures to enhance the local environment, demolition and subsequent urban improvement
  • Initiating working groups with the participation of residents
  • Providing support in setting up self-help structures
  • Taking measures to integrate households with a migration background; working within neighbourhoods

Recommendations for the Federal Government

The problematic residential areas require not only guiding measures, but also support measures. The following measures on the part of the Federal government are recommended:

Public relations work specifically targeted at local authorities/residential areas with good underlying conditions

This essentially applies to areas in economically stable regions. Successful strategies from other local authority districts should be compiled. For the local authorities, strategies represent a key tool for disseminating a broad range of examples, which can be used to communicate findings, criteria for success, pre-requisites and requirements that are adjusted to match the local situation in each case.

Deficiencies in official statistics: providing support to allow local authorities/residential areas to develop overall concepts for the residential areas

One key tool for taking action is a multi-zone strategy that is oriented to the bottlenecks and needs that have been determined. Local authorities in economically weak regions cannot fund overall plans and concepts of this kind. Financial support from the Federal government is required in these cases.

Typical examples of the redevelopment of existing stock, assuming this is appropriate: multi-family housing and single-family/two-family housing

Overall, the 1960s and 1970s housing stocks are relatively uniform, both with regard to multi-family housing and single-family/two-family housing. It would therefore be logical to develop sam-ple redevelopments as "prototypes" (including details of economic viability). On the one hand, this would involve showpieces demonstrating how to redevelop flats to cater to the needs of the elderly (including development of the broader living environment). Examples of how to make the environment suitable for residents with disabilities are helpful, as are detailed cost breakdowns. For cost reasons, it is especially important to aim for solutions that minimize obstacles for disabled people, rather than solutions that provide 100% accessibility.

Another necessary step is to provide showpiece demonstrations of how to redevelop single-family/two-family houses to cater to the needs of the elderly. In this case, it is particularly important to find solutions for larger plots that cater to the realities of multi-generational housing ("proximity at a distance"). Local authorities need to be given advice on how to accommodate changes in demand from the perspective of planning law. As well as redeveloping flats and single-family houses to cater to the needs of the elderly, examples also need to be given of family-oriented variants.

It is especially important to provide advice on how to ensure well-ordered, ongoing construction in a settlement structure with single-family/two-family houses. This is particularly important if an area of single-family/two-family houses, which have been constructed in widely-spaced layouts, is to be made denser through infill development according to § 34 of the German Federal Building Code (BauGB). Examples are required of how well-organised further development on the basis of a land-use plan can lead to long-term improvements in the settlement structure as a whole and result in overall satisfaction among the owners. These kinds of redevelopments in single-family/two-family houses can also be conducted in connection with the utility supplies. A clear demonstration must be given of how structural settlement plans can lead not only to redevelopment, but also to the achievement of a sustainable profile for the future.

One of the key tasks is to initiate the development of concepts that give an example of how various structures can be employed to facilitate the further development of urban spaces, building concepts and energy efficiency aspects. It is essential to find typologies that allow people to perceive how the concept could be carried over to other situations.

Financial support for on-site advice and support

Particularly in economically weaker regions, the local authorities should be sufficiently equipped to provide support and advice on a local level within the residential areas.

Advice on energy efficiency improvements in the structural fabric of the building in connection with redevelopments to cater to the needs of the elderly and/or families

As a rule, multi-family housing from the 1960s and 1970s tends to be in need of major renovations. These alterations to multi-storey buildings should be carried out in combination with sustainable improvements to the utility systems, flat distributions/layouts and living environments. In the event that incentives are being given to adapt homes to the needs of the elderly and also to renovate buildings to make them more energy efficient, these two measures should be combined.

The abstract is part of the German publication "Strategien für Wohnstandorte an der Peripherie der Städte und in Umlandgemeinden", BBSR-Online-Publikation 38/09, Hrsg.: BMVBS/BBSR, December 2009, Bonn
ISSN 1868-0097, urn:nbn:de:0093-ON3809R125
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