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Living in big cities Many tenants at the limit The high rental prices in big cities mean that many tenants are on the verge of financial problems. Scarce income and housing are a bad mix, as a recent study shows.


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Living in big cities Lots of tenants at the Load limit

Status: 15.06.2021 12:51 p.m.

The high rental prices in many large cities mean that many tenants are on the verge of financial problems. Scarce income and housing are a bad mix, as a recent study shows. When it comes to rent, many households in large cities have to raise so much money that they are above the 30 percent mark of household income. This is the result of a study published by the union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation. According to this, 49.2 percent of the around 8.4 million households that rent in Germany’s major cities are above this threshold. A good quarter of households have to spend at least 40 percent of their income on rent including heating and ancillary costs. Almost twelve percent of large city households even required more than half of their income for rent, i.e. rent including heating and ancillary costs.

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Bremen at the top

“For social scientists as well as real estate experts, a rent burden quota above 30 percent of household income is problematic, especially for households with lower incomes, because then there is only relatively little money left for the rest of life,” says the foundation’s study. Many landlords would also draw a line here because they doubted that tenants with less income would be able to afford their apartment in the long term. In Cologne, for example, the proportion of households that have to live with a rent burden rate of more than 30 percent is 46.4 percent. In Berlin it is 43.8 percent. In Bremen, the share is greatest at 47.5 percent. For the study, a research team led by urban sociologist Andrej Holm from Berlin’s Humboldt University evaluated the latest available data from the 2018 microcensus.

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Unfortunately, poorer households more so

Overall, according to the study, the financial burden on tenants has decreased over the past few years, because even with residents of large cities, incomes have increased more on average than housing costs. The mean exposure rate of tenant households fell in 2018 from 31.2 percent of income in 2001 to 29.6 percent. For many poorer households in particular, the situation has hardly relaxed, for them rent continues to be a particularly big financial problem. The authors see a further “polarization” of the housing situation. A comparison over time from 2006 to 2018 also shows “that social inequalities in the area of ​​housing have worsened and high rental costs have solidified”.

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Overload rate decreased slightly

The Federal Statistical Office had also analyzed the burden on households with housing costs. According to his data, almost 14 percent of the population, i.e. around 11.4 million people, lived in households that were financially overburdened by high housing costs. The authority sees an overload of housing costs when a household spends more than 40 percent of the available income on housing. This applies regardless of whether the person concerned is renting or living in their own four walls and paying off a loan, for example. According to Destatis, the overload rate has decreased slightly since 2014.

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There are no apartments

The Böckler study comes to the conclusion that the housing shortage in large cities has been “at best slightly alleviated” despite increased construction activity. Above all, there was a lack of small and inexpensive apartments, and the supply had become significantly scarcer over the years. Nationwide, there is a supply deficit of over 1.5 million apartments, which would be missing even with a hypothetically assumed optimal distribution of living space in large cities, explained Holm. The German Tenants’ Association is also calling for more apartments. A few days ago, he asked the next federal government to invest heavily in social housing and a nationwide six-year rent freeze. The federal government must provide a “much-needed breather for all tenants” until more new apartments are built. According to the tenants’ association, at least 30 percent of rental apartments would have to be in public or cooperative management in order to curb the price spiral. At present, every second tenant household in large cities is afraid of no longer being able to pay for the apartment, the association president, Lukas Siebenkotten, had determined.

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More income would help

Study author Holm advocates a multi-pronged approach: In addition to instruments to protect existing rents, among other things, social and non-profit housing “should be considerably strengthened with the most permanent rental agreements possible,” he advised. Another crucial key to social housing provision, however, is the income situation of the tenants. Without effective measures to dissolve the widespread low-wage sector, social housing cannot be guaranteed in large cities, according to Holm.