The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

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

Project briefing

  • Status Completed
  • Project duration November 2017 – December 2020
  • Programme ExWoSt

Since 2009, the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBSR) has been gathering information on municipal property portfolios through nationwide surveys every three years. The ExWoSt research project ‘Expansion of municipal property portfolios through construction and acquisition as a housing policy’ is intended to deepen the knowledge base established by these surveys. Investigations into 20 case study cities produced concrete findings about the role of the municipal housing industry in urban areas, what strategies are being used to expand municipal property portfolios and what their goals are.


In Germany’s dynamic, fast-growing regions, housing shortages and the associated rent increases have been part of everyday life for many years. In view of these developments on the housing market, intense housing policy debates have centred on how to increase the rate of new housing construction. One of the organisations created to this end was the Bündnis für bezahlbares Wohnen und Bauen (Association for Affordable Housing and Construction) between the federal states, municipal umbrella organisations, members of the housing and construction industry and other community stakeholders. At the housing summit in September 2018, the federal government, states and municipalities agreed on a broad set of measures to tackle the housing crisis – including investment stimuli for housing construction, ensuring the affordability of housing, reducing construction costs and securing the necessary expertise.

Despite a marked increase in the number of newly built properties, local municipalities still face major challenges when it comes to providing affordable housing for many sections of the population. In cities and municipalities, local housing associations are once again occupying a more prominent role when it comes to housing provision. Previously, housing associations had primarily invested in the conversion and modernisation of housing portfolios (energy renovations and creating housing appropriate for older residents). The focus then shifted to providing affordable housing to different sections of the population by creating more new housing. The portfolios of municipal housing associations – most of which are under the direct or indirect influence of the cities they belong to – are increasingly becoming a key pillar of municipal housing policy in the face of growth pressure. In addition to providing housing, municipal housing associations also take on important responsibilities in the area of urban development. Expansion of municipal-owned housing portfolios can thus also be beneficial in contexts where there is no major strain on the market.


The aim of the research project was to survey and structure the strategies taken by municipal administrations, municipal policy-makers and municipal housing associations to expand municipal housing portfolios in the current financial, political and social context. In addition to building new housing, this includes densification of the existing portfolio, purchasing portfolio properties and acquiring new construction projects. Approaches established in practice were assessed for transferability.

The aim was to achieve in-depth insights that went beyond the nationwide overview provided by the municipal surveys by the BBSR (see BBSR 2017b). The basis for this was a case study analysis of 20 cities that were in the process of expanding their portfolio or were planning to do so. The investigation took an approach that applied to all stakeholders, and jointly considered stakeholders from the three relevant groups – politics, administration and housing associations. The main challenge of the project was subjecting different conditions and solutions to a joint analysis.

The contractors involved in the research project were the Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik (German Institute of Urban Affairs) in collaboration with RegioKontext GmbH, both based in Berlin.


  • Gudrun Claßen
    Division WB 13 "Housing and Property Industry, Construction Industry"
    Phone: +49 228 99401-1505

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