The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Research Project: Expansion of municipal property portfolios through construction and acquisition as a housing policy


Key questions posed by the research

The key questions posed by the research focused on the one hand on the conditions under which municipal portfolios are expanded and the concepts behind this expansion. On the other, the research examined the aims and strategies applied when expanding municipal housing portfolios.

Tasks facing municipalities and structural frameworks:

  • What are the characteristics of the municipalities in which portfolios are being expanded in terms of population trends, the housing market, housing policy, strategies and concepts?

Situation and motivations of housing associations:

  • How are municipal housing associations set up (proportion of the portfolio that is part of the municipal housing market, structure of collaboration with the municipality)?
  • What role do they play in the municipal housing market?
  • Are targets negotiated between the municipalities and the housing associations – and if so, how?
  • Have there been changes in the municipal strategy in recent years when it comes to their housing portfolios?
  • Are there partnerships with other housing providers (e.g. housing alliances)?

Scale and practicalities of portfolio expansion:

  • What kind of scope and timeframe do municipalities and housing associations have when it comes to building and acquiring housing?
  • What strategies are used when it comes to expanding municipal housing portfolios?
  • What characterises these portfolio expansions (construction/acquisition)?
  • What have been the experiences of founding new municipal housing associations?

Aims of portfolio expansion:

  • Which target groups and market segments are the focus?
  • What rent prices result from construction projects?

Framework conditions for building new housing:

  • How are municipal housing associations involved in municipal housing policy (housing policy concepts, etc.) – particularly when it comes to building new housing?
  • What land policy strategies are implemented in order to create affordable housing?
  • What is the current and prospective situation when it comes to land for construction?
  • How are municipal land plots used by municipal housing associations to build new housing?
  • What funding programmes are available and which are used?

Research concept, approach and methodology

The investigation employed a sophisticated set of methods.

At the heart of the research project was the analysis of 20 case studies. Here, strategies and framework conditions for expanding municipal housing portfolios at a municipal and housing association level were established and made clear. A variety of methodological elements were used (document analysis, quantitative analysis, qualitative empirical social research).

Before the case study analysis began, a short written questionnaire was conducted on municipal housing policy and expansion practices for municipal housing portfolios. This short questionnaire was aimed at municipalities with an active housing policy and a housing market that was under strain. On the one hand, the questionnaire aimed to gather and verify information about housing policy strategies and measures. At the same time, the questionnaire enquired about willingness to take part in the case study analysis.

Based on the responses to the questionnaire, 20 municipalities were selected as case study cities. The selection criteria took the form of requirements for the individual municipalities as well as collective requirements for all of the municipalities together. These included:

  • An even distribution of the municipalities across the country
  • A variety of different city sizes
  • An active housing or urban development policy
  • Consideration of small cities and cities with limited municipal housing portfolios
  • Formation of a new municipal housing association

The case studies served as a source of practical knowledge and experience regarding the management and impact of municipal housing portfolios in local housing markets. The investigations in the case studies cities took place between September 2018 and February 2019. In-depth interviews were held with representatives from municipal administrations, municipal housing associations and other stakeholders in the housing market. In the next stage of the process, a workshop was carried out with the case study cities in which the key results were reflected on and discussed.

The research approach looked at municipalities and municipal housing associations in equal measure. The relevant collaborations and municipal housing associations are often regarded as a homogeneous group. The similarities and differences were established and carried over into conclusions and recommendations.

An overview of the case study cities

Map of Germany with the location of the 20 case study cities Overview of the case studies Location of the 20 case study cities

An overview of the project phases

Flow chart with the individual project phases Project stages

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