200,000 ‘affordable homes’ needed per year to fight homelessness in Germany

Approximately 650,000 people in Germany are homeless, with the majority living in emergency quarters, according to new figures released Tuesday.

200,000 'affordable homes' needed per year to fight homelessness in Germany
A homeless person's belongings on a street in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

About 48,000 of those people are sleeping on the streets, according to the statistics from the Federal Association of Homelessness Help (BAGW).

An additional 275,000 people were homeless due to job losses, mounting debts or personal “strokes of fate”, wrote the BAGW.

The numbers of homelessness – both in shelters and on the streets – is on the rise, they said, without yet being able to provide concrete numbers.

The increase in homelessness can be attributed largely to a lack of affordable housing, said BAGW, who proposed that Germany build more social housing units.

The number of such units has dipped by 60 percent since 1990 to 1.2 million, as the German government continues to sell its stock of units to private investors.

Housing crisis

In order to fight homelessness, BAGW’s managing director Werena Rosenke demanded that a higher proportion of socially housing be made available explicitly for homeless people. 

“80,000 to 100,000 new social housing units and a further 100,000 affordable housing units are needed per year,” she wrote. In total the homelessness association believes around 200,000 affordable homes are needed each year.

According to the Institute of the German Economy (IW), 287,000 apartments were completed nationwide in 2018, and figure is unlikely to rise significantly this year. Of those, only 27,040 were subsidized homes.

However, while there remains a serious housing shortage in large cities, there is a vacancy and oversupply in smaller cities and rural areas.

SEE ALSO: How new homes are not being built where they are the most needed in Germany

A total of 342,000 new dwellings would be needed in 2019 and 2020 in order to accommodate everyone who needs a home, estimates BAGW.

Immigration on the rise

Another root cause of the rise in homelessness is the immigration spike in the past few years, both from other EU countries and in the form of refugees and asylum seekers.

Among the homeless, there are 375,000 recognized asylum seekers and refugees in special accommodation and reception centres.

Eight percent, or 22,000, of the homeless are children and young people. Most of those affected were men, with a quarter of them women. 

Out of the the 48,000 people who sleep on the streets, many come from other EU countries, especially within Eastern Europe.

In larger cities like Berlin, makeshift tent camps have been set up in parks and open spaces. Their inhabitants face dangerous conditions in the winter, or relocate to U-Bahn stations.

SEE ALSO: How Berlin is struggling to deal with growing homelessness in its parks

'Offensive against homelessness'

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, leader of the Green parliamentary group, demanded rapid measures be enforced by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) “so that the stock of social housing will increase again instead of decrease”.

The Left party leader Katja Kipping demanded an “offensive against homelessness” – which would include emergency aid in cases where rent couldn't be paid.

“The fear that the apartment will become unaffordable now burdens a large part of the population,” said Verene Bentele, president of the social advocacy organization vDK. 

Among other things, a “well-functioning Mietpreisbremse (rental price brake)” is necessary, she added.


Homelessness – (die) Obdachlosigkeit 

Strokes of fate – Schicksalsschlägen

Estimates – (die) Schätzungen

Housing shortage – (der) Wohnungsmangel

Federal Association of Homelessness Help – Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe

Reception centres – (die) Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung


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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.