Renting your own home: building cooperatives are in demand

Renting your own home: building cooperatives are in demand

Four-room apartments with their own garden, single apartments in hip inner-city neighborhoods, or apartments on the first floor suitable for the elderly – all at prices that are below the local rent level.

Building cooperatives promise their members affordable housing and protection from luxury renovations. "More and more young people are also looking for cooperative housing," says matthias zabel of the federal association of german housing and real estate companies (bundesverband deutscher wohnungs- und immobilienunternehmen, gdw). But the developments on the housing market are also causing them problems.

According to gdw, five million people across germany live in apartments built by the 2000 cooperative building societies. New building cooperatives are founded every year. More than 70 have joined the gdw regional associations since 2010, says zabel.

The association of bavarian housing companies is even talking about a veritable "wave of ground rentals" in his state, not only by cooperatives but also by municipal, church and public housing companies. "Committed citizens and municipalities wanted to take the oar into their own hands and create living space," says association director hans maier. Zabel from the gdw warns of a potential misunderstanding, however: "we can’t solve the problem on the housing market only through new developments."

New cooperatives usually also build their own homes. Since they lack capital at the beginning, they usually have to charge higher rents than real estate cooperatives. For the shares in the cooperatives, he says, the sums involved are usually in the five-digit range. According to zabel, shares in existing cooperatives are usually available for between 500 and 3,000 euros.

For existing cooperatives, on the other hand, there is another problem in metropolises like berlin: a lack of building land. "Private land is currently far too expensive for cooperative housing construction in berlin, with few exceptions," says carsten-michael roding, technical director of charlottenburger baugenossenschaft. Land prices of 1,000 euros and more per square meter are too high to offer cooperative rents.

The alternative is urban building land, but in berlin this is only available as leasehold land. In this model, the land remains the owner and leases the land for a period of usually 90 or 60 years in return for a ground rent – which can increase after some time, many cooperatives argue.

At least for existing cooperatives, these conditions are not attractive, says roding. He does not understand why there are no exceptions for building cooperatives and looks enviously to munich, where the conditions are better. There, according to the 2017 housing policy action program, 20 to 40 percent of communal land in new construction projects is to be allocated to cooperatives and building communities. In addition, land tenders were tailored to their "needs," according to the paper.

For lack of building land in berlin, the charlottenburger baugenossenschaft, for example, is currently only building on its own land or adding to existing buildings. Roding also looks to brandenburg for support. However, since the new construction projects are not sufficient to offer an apartment to all interested parties, the charlottenburger are currently only accepting relatives of their members.

The berliner baugenossenschaft (bbg) has also partially imposed an admission stop. According to its commercial chairman, jorg wollenberg, it is currently only expanding attic floors or compacting its own land plots. The cooperative also invests continuously in its buildings. Since many cooperative members had lived in their apartments for a long time, the electrical system and the bathroom had to be redone after they moved out. "The question is whether such redevelopments are still possible to the extent after the rent cap."

According to wollenberg, the fact that berlin is currently not taking on all interested parties is not only due to a lack of new construction projects. Due to the low interest rates, more investors had bought up cooperative shares who were not looking for an apartment at all. The bbg distributed a 4 percent dividend to its members last year. "At the moment, we can only take on very regional interested parties who state concrete wishes for accommodation," he says. 450 members are currently on the waiting list for an apartment.

How long it takes until you are allocated an apartment depends on your wishes. In berlin, for example, apartments with four or five rooms in family-friendly districts are very much in demand. Cooperative members had to wait up to five years for this. In some cases, things are happening faster in "neighborhoods," such as neukolln and wedding.

Despite all the problems: demand remains rough. According to wollenberg, interested parties therefore also apply for miethauser, which is less in demand because of loud strabs, for example: "the main thing is that they get an apartment with the cooperative first."

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