For members


Rising rent prices in Germany: What are the affordable options for families?

High rents are making it harder for families to live in some German cities. Yet new research has revealed what the best alternatives might be.

Rising rent prices in Germany: What are the affordable options for families?
Families gather on a warm day in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

The number of families in large cities with particularly high rents is declining, according to the new “Germany Study” by economic research institute Prognos commissioned by broadcaster ZDF.

In recent years more families have migrated from rather than moved to cities including Munich, Freiburg, Frankfurt am Main and Stuttgart.

The researchers said a large reason for this was increasing rents: in Munich, families have to spend an average of 43 percent of their income on housing. In Freiburg they have to shell out 42 percent and in Frankfurt am Main that figure is 39 percent.

READ ALSO: Munich 'no longer most expensive city' for renting in Germany

Harald Rost from the State Institute for Family Research at the University of Bamberg cited a family from Munich as an example: despite working as full-time academics, the couple and their three children could only afford a house 70 kilometres away from Munich – to live in the city was too expensive.

“It's not new for families to move to the surrounding area because of high rents,” said Detlev Lück of the Federal Institute for Population Research in Wiesbaden –  but rising rents could be boosting this trend. 

Families have typically been moving to the outskirts of cities or smaller towns in Germany.  Cheaper apartments, suburban train connections and a feasible commuter route are attractive for many people.

Of course it's not just about the cost of housing. Schools and Kitas (daycare centres) also play a central role in the decision by many families to live outside cities. Lots of daycare centres in built-up areas have long waiting times which can influence families to look elsewhere.

Lück said private gardens and parks or other green spaces were also important for couples with children.

“In addition, there are very different individual reasons such as the personal connection to a place, the proximity of one's parents and individual preferences such as a theatre or good food scene in the vicinity,” he added.

What are the best options?

The best living conditions for families, according to the “Germany Study”, are in the Hochtaunuskreis district which lies north of Frankfurt. This area offers good schools and healthcare. The birth rate is also higher than average in this area.

Baden-Baden in the south followed this district, and Starnberg, Bavaria, was in third place. Next came Speyer and Neustadt an der Weinstraße both in Rhineland-Palatinate.

READ ALSO: 'Bargain B-cities': The places to buy property in Germany if you're on a tight budget

Baden-Baden is a good spot for families. Photo: DPA

The towns doing it differently

To put together the ranking, the Prognos researchers looked at four areas of life with several factors, including money and housing, education and social affairs, health and safety as well as leisure and cultural activities.

Researcher Rost said families' decision making also comes down to where they can get work. “People move to where they can find a job,” he said.

He said the tendency to leave cities because of high rents was taking place in Germany's big cities.

In medium-sized towns like Bamberg, which has 77,600 residents, there is a strong influx of families.

Meanwhile, many families who moved further out of the suburbs to the countryside noticed extra costs, such as needing to buy more than one car in order to drive their children to various activities, the research found.

According to Rost, the Upper Franconian town of Marktredwitz in the district of Wunsiedel, which has 17,300 residents, shows how things can be different.

This town offered financial incentives to families to settle down. Start-ups in the region also made it attractive as an employer.

According to the study, rent costs in the district are the lowest in Germany; families pay just 16 percent of their income. These factors have resulted in the number of families in the area going up.

Do you have a family in Germany? Where would you suggest living which is both affordable and has a good quality of life? Let us know.


On average – durchschnittlich

Affordable rents – (die) bezahlbare Mieten

Living conditions – (die) Lebensverhältnisse

Financial incentives – (die) finanzielle Anreize

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

For members


Wohngeld: How people in Germany can get help with rising living costs

Many households in Germany could be eligible for increased financial support with their rents and bills from next year. We break down who should apply and how much help they could receive.

Wohngeld: How people in Germany can get help with rising living costs

The cost of living is rising across the board, and nowhere is this being felt more than in the home. For over a year, gas and electricity bills have been soaring and people on low incomes have been left wondering how to make ends meet.

While there is support available for people in this situation, it seems that many households in Germany aren’t aware that they could be eligible to apply for Wohngeld, or housing allowance, to help them with their expenses. What’s more, the amount of money people can get is set to rise at the start of next year.

Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly is Wohngeld?

Wohngeld, or housing allowance, is a form of financial aid for low-income households in Germany. It’s intended to help with the general costs associated with housing, such as monthly rents and utility bills.

Even people who own their own homes are able to get support with their mortgage repayments and building management costs (known as Hausgeld). However, they do have to fulfil certain criteria, like earning under a certain amount per month.

Unlike long-term unemployment benefit, which also includes a stipend for rent and bills, Wohngeld is intended for people who don’t rely on any other form of state support. That could include single parents or people with minimum wage jobs who spend a large proportion of their income on rent.

It means that people on jobseekers’ allowance and students with state loans and grants aren’t able to apply for Wohngeld. 


How much money can people receive?

That depends on a range of factors such as where you live, how high your rent is and how much money you earn this month. However, one thing that’s clear is that Wohngeld is likely to rise significantly at the start of next year.

On Wednesday, cabinet ministers voted through proposals from Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) to hike the monthly allowance by around €190 on average. That means that instead of receiving €177 per month, the average household on Wohngeld will receive around €370 per month starting in January. 

It’s worth noting that Geywitz’s reforms still need to clear a vote in the Bundestag, but with the governing coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP behind the move, it’s likely that they will. 

The Housing Ministry has also put together an online tool that can calculate the amount of Wohngeld each household is entitled to. At the moment, this still calculates the allowance based on the current rates – but it will be updated if the reforms are passed by parliament. 

Who’s eligible for Wohngeld?

That depends on a complex calculation based on factors such as income, the number of people in a household, the size and location of the property and how high monthly housing expenses are. There’s no straightforward income threshold that people can refer to, which could explain why thousands of households who could potentially get Wohngeld never apply for it.

The best way to check if you’re currently eligible is to use the government’s Wohngeld calculator tool. But as we mentioned above, this is still based on the current criteria and monthly rates. 

As well as hiking the monthly allowance, Geywitz also wants to expand the criteria so more households are eligible for Wohngeld.

At the moment, around 600,000 households in Germany receive Wohngeld. This could increase by 1.4 million to two million under Geywitz’s plans. From next year, people earning minimum wage and people on low pensions are set to be among those who are able to apply. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Germany this year?

Sound good – where do I sign up?

In general, the states and municipalities are responsible for handling Wohngeld applications. That means you should apply at the local Wohngeldamt (housing allowance office), Wohnungsamt (housing office) or Bürgeramt (citizens’ office) in your district or city. 

If you’re unsure where to go, searching for ‘Wohngeld beantragen’ (apply for housing allowance) and the name of your city or area should pull up some search results that can guide you further. 

Apartment blocks in Berlin Marzahn.

Apartment blocks in Berlin Marzahn. Photo: picture alliance / Matthias Balk/dpa | Matthias Balk

Alongside an application form, you’ll likely have to submit a tenancy agreement, ID, information on your residence rights and proof of any income or state support you already receive. Other members of your household may also have to submit similar financial information. 

You should also be registered at the address you’re applying for Wohngeld for. 

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

Are there any other changes to Wohngeld I should know about?

Anyone already on Wohngeld, or who receives it between September and December this year, is also entitled to a special heating allowance to help with winter energy costs. This is also set to be given to students and trainees receiving a BAföG loan or grant.

For students and trainees, the heating allowance is set at €345 per person. Meanwhile, the amount given to Wohngeld recipients will vary on the size of the household.

Single-person households will receive €415, two-person households will get €540 and there will be an additional €100 per person for larger households. 

This is likely to paid out in January.