Housing accounted for 59 per cent of overall construction investment in 2014, making it far and away the largest sector of the building industry in Germany. Residential property thus has a key role to play in dealing with the central challenges presented by climate protection. For example, a one-family house constructed in accordance with the latest standards uses up to 80 per cent less heating energy than a comparable, uninsulated building. The housing sector is also of great significance in the light of a changing population structure and the demand for accessible accommodation designed to meet the requirements of older people. Residential buildings erected in the 1950s and 1960s in particular often cannot satisfy modern-day standards.
With a share of around 73 per cent of all residential building work performed, work on existing buildings accounts for the majority of the domestic housing construction volume. The significance of measures to increase the energy efficiency of existing buildings has grown considerably. Nevertheless, only a small proportion of existing residential buildings satisfies the latest energy efficiency standards. There is a need for appropriate legislation to eliminate the obstacles: Otherwise it will be difficult to meet the target set down in the Federal government's energy concept of reducing primary energy demand in the building sector by around 80 per cent by the year 2050. The amendments to the Energy Saving Act (EnEV) must also be formulated in such a way that investment is not further discouraged. Far greater financial incentives than those offered so far would be desirable to fully exploit energy saving potential in the housing sector. If the annual modernisation rate is to be at least doubled – as intended by the German Federal government – a higher level of subsidies will have to be made available on a permanent basis. For example, the KfW bank programme for energy-efficient building modernisation needs boosting as quickly as possible from its current level of 1.8 billion to at least 3 billion euros a year and the application procedure must be simplified.
The construction of an adequate number of new buildings is essential to ensure a sustainable supply of affordable housing. Totalling 140,000, the number of new dwellings constructed in Germany dropped to a historically low level in 2009. Since then, there has been a constant increase in construction volume, with 220,000 dwellings completed in 2014. Although momentum is gradually picking up, the current level of new construction is nothing like enough to satisfy demand. VDZ’s Cement Forecast working group is expecting that at least 250,000 new dwellings will be necessary each year. To a certain extent this is a reflection of the trend towards smaller households, as a result of which the total number of private households is likely to continue rising in the coming years. This disguises the contrary effect of the negative birth rate in Germany which for a long time caused the population to shrink. Since 2011 the population has been growing again – a consequence of the massive increase in immigration to Germany arising from the economic difficulties and international crises in Europe and certain parts of the world. Also, the increasingly regional concentration of the demand for housing means that affordable accommodation in high-growth areas in particular is in ever shorter supply, providing extra impetus for demand.
There is nevertheless a need for changes to the economic framework to stimulate the construction of new residential buildings – for instance in the form of improved depreciation conditions for the construction of rented accommodation. In addition, the Federal government and Federal states should provide more funds to give a boost to social housing construction. Despite the generally positive labour market and income development in Germany, there is a need to provide assistance to households who do not have sufficient resources to be able to afford appropriate accommodation. Furthermore, new buildings constructed to replace ones for which modernisation is not financially viable, ones which are not characteristic of their location and ones which are already standing empty should be treated in the same way as the complete modernisation of a building in the context of KfW bank funding and with regard to building regulations by altering the building laws. With the alliance for affordable accommodation and construction set up in 2014, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety created a platform for representatives of the building and property industries to discuss urgent housing matters in working groups. The German cement industry is also represented through the participation of the German Building Materials Association.