The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Research Project: Evaluation of the 2016 housing benefit reform


As part of the 2016 housing benefit reform, the number of housing benefit households has increased to 631,481 households. Without the reform, the number of recipient households would have continued to decline as in previous years - in 2016, only 384,000 households would have received housing benefit. As a result of the reform, there are thus around 247,000 new housing benefit households (+64%). Apart from the new recipients, the housing benefit households also benefit in the form of higher housing benefit amounts. The average monthly housing benefit of the previous housing benefit households has risen by 64€ from 117€ without the reform to 181€ and housing benefit expenditure has doubled to 1,147 million euros in 2016. The housing cost burden after housing benefit has fallen by about 5 percentage points for tenants. The 2016 housing benefit reform has thus made an important contribution to ensuring that housing benefits continue to fulfil their statutory mandate to provide adequate and family-friendly housing in an economically viable manner.

A further component of the study was the analysis of regional aspects of the housing benefit system. The study examined whether the reference rent band level-specific increase of the maximum amounts for rent and burden was appropriate and what effects this had on the average housing benefit and the average rent burden (Mietbelastung). As a result, the housing benefit can effectively reduce regional differences in the housing situation and the housing cost burden. By adjusting the maximum amounts, the share of housing benefit households whose rent or burden exceeds the maximum amounts has decreased in all reference rent bands.

The study also included a survey of the housing benefit authorities (Wohngeldbehörden). In this way, findings were obtained about which no or hardly any information is available from official statistics. This resulted in a picture of practical assessments of the implementation of the Housing Benefit Act (Wohngeldgesetz), which clearly illustrates important background information on the housing benefit system. The main focus was on the background to the granting, refusal and non-take-up of housing benefit and the evaluation of the housing benefit reform 2016 by the housing benefit authorities.

With the 2020 housing benefit reform, which has meanwhile come into force, central suggestions from this study - e.g. the regular adjustment of maximum amounts and housing benefit parameters as well as the introduction of a further reference rent band - are already being implemented. Above all, it is to be expected from the dynamisation of housing benefit that the previous "cyclical" decline in the number of recipients between housing benefit reforms will no longer occur to the same extent in the future.

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