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Federal Chancellor Scholz (SPD), Construction Minister Gewyitz (SPD): "Change a lot and make a lot possible"

Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka / dpa

More support for families in buying or building their own four walls, new tax benefits for construction projects and the departure from planned energy standards: With 14 projects, the traffic light coalition wants to achieve that more is built. "More affordable housing must be built in Germany," stressed Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) at the government's crisis meeting with the construction industry. The package will "change a lot and make a lot possible," promised Construction Minister Klara Geywitz.

"More people will be able to buy a house, an existing one or a new one, with our new funding," said the SPD politician. "By thinking more holistically about climate protection in the building sector, we will save more CO₂, and by making it much easier to build new apartments, we will have more apartments and affordable rents in the medium term."

Associations reacted to the plans of the federal government with a mixed response. The real estate and construction industries were "cautiously optimistic" on Monday. On the other hand, criticism comes from trade union representatives and environmental associations.

14-point plan for more housing construction

SPIEGEL had already reported on the federal government's 14-point plan in the run-up to the housing summit. Among other things, the abandonment of the EH40 energy-saving standard for new buildings, which the federal government had actually agreed in the coalition agreement for 2025, is expected to have a major effect. Geywitz had already called for this in the past, and now Climate Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has also agreed to it. He explained: "The introduction of the Building Energy Act ensures that new buildings will heat in a climate-friendly manner from 2024. That's why I don't think it's necessary to introduce the new EH40 standard in a hurry."

EH40 means: A requirement of 40 percent of the energy of a comparable new building. Currently, the EH55 standard applies to new buildings. EH40 was intended to further reduce the energy requirement for heating and thus also the emission of greenhouse gases. But this makes construction more complex and expensive.

This would come at a time of already rising costs due to sharply increased construction interest rates and expensive building materials. All in all, it has led to fewer and fewer new housing projects being launched. At the same time, affordable housing in metropolises is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

The federal government's plan also includes a reform of property subsidies for families, which has recently been used only hesitantly. The income limit of a family with one child is to be increased from 60,000 to 90,000 euros, and 10,000 euros can be earned for each additional child.

In the next two years, the federal government will also launch a program for the purchase of houses in need of renovation. At the same time, the conversion of vacant offices and shops into new apartments is to be supported. The money is to come from the Climate and Transformation Fund, a special pot outside the federal budget.

In the case of construction projects, there are to be tax advantages through special depreciation rules, the so-called Afa. The "climate bonus", which encourages homeowners to replace old, fossil heating systems with new, climate-friendly heating systems, is to be increased and also extended to housing companies and landlords.

The states are to be given a more flexible design of the real estate transfer tax. The targeted so-called non-profit housing is to be launched next year. Landlords who provide permanently affordable housing are to be tax-advantaged and promoted.

Scholz also described serial construction as a key instrument. This would allow houses to be built in other districts without the need for complex new procedures. For this, however, the states and municipalities must go along with it.

Cautious praise – and harsh criticism

The response to the plans of the federal government is ambivalent: "The traffic light has probably recognized the scope of the situation," said the Central Association of the Construction Industry. The real estate association ZIA also expressed itself positively: "A new realism in climate protection and clear tax relief signals show that the talks of the last few weeks have paid off." The Main Association of the German Construction Industry praised the package as "more extensive than expected". It is now important that a more attractive interest rate subsidy program is also examined.

The housing industry association GdW, which had boycotted the meeting in the Chancellery, also saw a positive development. Unfortunately, nothing came of it for socially oriented housing companies. As a result, these companies would not be able to take advantage of the new depreciation opportunities at all. The association demanded, among other things, a reduction in VAT from 19 to 7 percent for affordable housing and KfW loans at a reduced interest rate of one percent. Then affordable rents for new buildings could be guaranteed again.

The head of the industrial union Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt, Robert Feiger, criticized that the package of measures of the federal government remains in the minutiae. "The big push to boost housing construction is failing to materialize. It could have been a little more." He called the 14-point package a "general store of long-known measures, financially manageable increases in some subsidy programs, some deregulation and announcements without much substance."

There was clear criticism of the package of measures from the trade unions and social associations. "The federal government does not say a word about better tenant protection, does not provide any additional impetus for social housing construction and there are no binding commitments for the introduction of a new housing non-profit status," complained Stefan Körzell of the German Trade Union Confederation. For the Workers' Welfare (AWO), the federal government is concentrating too much on the construction of new housing.

Environmental associations were also disappointed: "The package of measures of the traffic light for building and living is not a course for a more socially just and ecological future, but a fiasco," criticized the managing director of the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND), Antje von Broock. The farewell to the eco-standard is completely unacceptable. "With the plans of the traffic light, we are sliding further towards climate catastrophe, and more and more people do not know how to pay their next heating bill."