Region Forward Blog

Gentrification in Southern Germany

Nov 10, 2011


Today is effectively Friday for many DC area residents so we thought we’d get a jump on things with an early Global Fridays post. Enjoy!

High and increasing housing values. Luxury towers popping up on every corner. Lower-income folks feeling pushed out of their neighborhoods. People calling for the city’s height limit to be relaxed. Welcome to… Munich?

Gentrification is an international reality. Just as the District of Columbia and other parts of this region experience the benefits of revitalization while also having to confront its consequences so too are other in-demand cities around the world.

A piece released today as part of Spiegel International’s Gentrification in Germany series explains that the Bavarian city is experiencing a wave of redevelopment that is driving already high housing values even higher and it’s forcing out some longtime residents. A similar situation is taking place in major cities across Germany.

Demand for real estate in Munich Berlin and Hamburg is at unprecedented levels. As Spiegel notes housing has come to be seen as a secure investment amid international financial uncertainty: “Owing to uncertainty in the financial markets and very low interest rates on mortgages Germans are opting to invest their money in ‘concrete gold.’”

In Munch the situation created by tremendous demand and already high prices is further exacerbated by the existence of the city’s building height limit. “Of course the city could solve its overcrowding problem by building taller apartment buildings…In a 2004 referendum they [Bavarians] approved a measure that prevents new developments from being taller than the north tower of the Frauenkirche Cathedral or 98.57 meters (323 feet). The consequence of this mélange is a real-life game of Monopoly in which long-term residents low-wage earners and members of the middle class are falling by the wayside.”

Although the paper’s claims that Munich could “solve this problem” simply by raising its height limit seem a bit exaggerated it’s definitely an option that should be on the table.

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