High interest rates and sharply increased costs have stalled the construction engine. Affordable housing is difficult to find in many places. The government now wants to be specific in its search for solutions.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is pushing for better conditions for the construction of affordable housing in Germany. To achieve this, regulations should be simplified and standardized “so that we can achieve serial construction and construction becomes even cheaper,” he said on Saturday at an SPD election campaign rally in Nuremberg. In an interview with the German Press Agency, Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) called for a departure from planned energy saving regulations for new residential buildings and unrenovated older buildings.
Both spoke at a meeting between the federal government and the housing industry in the Chancellery. Monday will be about how quickly and cheaply more apartments can be built. The numbers are currently declining due to high interest rates and construction costs. Associations in the construction industry called for an aid package with tax relief, fewer rules and more funding. They called for “housing construction momentum” at the weekend.
Scholz said the meeting should discuss “very specific things” about how more apartments can be built. Among other things, more building land is needed, which must be designated in the municipalities.
Uniform basic construction of houses
Regarding serial construction, he said that car manufacturers do not approve each model individually in each district, but rather there is a general approval. “Why shouldn’t we be able to do this across Germany with the basic construction of houses? That would save considerable costs.” The apartments remained individual, as was the case with car orders.
Geywitz took energy saving regulations into account. “I am against using mandatory minimum efficiency standards for buildings to scare owners of unrenovated houses into having to invest tens of thousands of euros,” said Geywitz, also with a view to EU plans.
A building efficiency directive is being discussed in Brussels that would require improvements, especially for houses with the worst energy values. The Federal Ministry of Economics also wants to prevent certain requirements. “We rule out mandatory renovations for individual residential buildings,” the “Spiegel” quoted from a statement.
Less stringent energy saving standards
“We should first set a good example with public buildings, with our children’s schools, with sports halls, with town halls, fire stations and care facilities,” said Geywitz. “We have already saved quite a bit of CO2. And if we later discover that there are still too many unrenovated single-family homes, we will certainly have an answer to that.”
With a view to new buildings, Geywitz clearly distanced himself from the EH40 energy saving standard that the traffic light agreed in the coalition agreement for 2025. “The current categories, the EH40 efficiency standard for example, focus too much on insulation and the required heating heat,” said Geywitz. “We should develop a simple system that promotes energy-efficient construction, the use of environmentally friendly and recycled building materials and space-saving construction. That would be an alternative to EH40.”
Geywitz argued that the definition in the coalition agreement comes from a time with lower financing and construction costs. “We urgently need to reduce construction costs. The difference in construction costs between the now valid EH55 and EH40 standards can be several hundred euros per square meter.”
More technical flexibility
A flexible system is necessary. “This applies to older buildings, but also to new buildings,” said Geywitz. “Wood and other natural building materials store carbon dioxide for a long time. We need the technical freedom to say: If you store or save a lot of CO2 when building the house by using recycled materials, then you can do so later in the operational phase be more flexible in terms of energy consumption.”
With regard to the financing conditions, Scholz said: “It’s not the interest rates that are the problem.” The current level of around four percent is low compared, for example, to 9.5 percent in the early 1970s. The problem is that too many apartments have been built at prices that many cannot afford.