Düsseldorf's particular lack of housing for lower-income residents was highlighted on Monday when regional paper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported that the city had spent just €28 million on social housing over the past three years.
In 2010 the city used just €4 million of its €15 million housing subsidiary budget, something North-Rhine Westphalia state Urban Development Minister Michael Groschek has warned could signal a “luxury ghettoisation” of the city.
The city's mayor Dirk Elbers said that as land was in such high demand in Düsseldorf, it would not be being used for cheap housing, which suggested should be built further out in the lower Rhine area of the state instead.
“Booming towns like Cologne, Düsseldorf and Münster need additional social-housing and the funding is there, they just need to ask for it,” Groschek told paper.
In fact, Cologne was North Rhine-Westphalia frontrunner when it came to spending on low-income housing, spending €222 million in the past three years.
Subsidising accommodation was, the WAZ said, a tradition in NRW. The state government, which is currently a coalition between the Green Party and the Social Democrats, set aside €850 million this year alone for the cause, and generally commissions 5,000 to 6,000 new social rent apartments each year.
The problem is not just confined to the west of the country though, as Berlin lacks around 428,000 social houses – meaning just a third of low-income families have access to one, according to research from research centre the Pestel Institute.
“Each year around 12,500 social rent apartments disappear from the market,” said institute head Matthias Günther. He added that when social housing was bought up by private investors, an increase in rent almost always followed.
The gap in the market had been growing for years and needs to be closed, by putting priority on building more social housing, he said.