Prospects for West German Post-War Single-Family Home Neighbourhoods
Revitalising Housing Stocks as a New Policy Field for Suburban and Rural Municipalities

Philipp Zakrzewski, Andrea Berndgen-Kaiser, Runrid Fox-Kämper, Stefan Siedentop


The single-family home neighbourhoods that were built in West Germany in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s will be increasingly affected by future socio-demographic changes. Today, the above-average length of occupancy by owners and the rise in life expectancy are leading to the increased over-ageing of the populations in these residential areas. The generational change means that a constantly growing number of these homes are being put up for sale and encountering a changing and regionally differentiated housing market. Regionally diverse shrinking and ageing of the population will decrease the potential demand for single-family homes in coming years. In addition, social change will lead to qualitative changes in demand. The pluralisation of living arrangements and residential preferences can be expressed in the changed household structures and the geographic shift in housing demand in favour of more dense urban areas. Therefore, residential areas in peripheral regions with unfavourable demographic and economic conditions are particularly at risk. At the local level, winners and losers will emerge among the existing residential neighbourhoods of suburban or rural municipalities. Disadvantages such as unfavourable characteristics of a certain location and construction or energy efficiency shortcomings, as well as image perception, can combine to create serious problems. In the worst case, homes are at risk of a loss in value, neglect, vacancy and dilapidation – developments that have, to date, been largely unknown in Germany’s single-family home sector. The question for areas with at-risk homes is how the looming change in owner generations, not to mention the structural and infrastructural transformation processes, can be managed. This article, based on the results of a research project conducted by the Wüstenrot Foundation, examines the general demographic and socio-economic causes of this development and characterises the present situation in selected case studies. We also address questions about handling these problems and identify initial considerations about possible municipal interventions in the revitalisation of single-family home neighbourhoods. In addition, the article presents a strategic framework for action and a number of possible municipal provisions.


Single-family home neighbourhoods; Urban development; Socio-demographic change; Housing stock; Housing surpluses

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