Cost-Effective Housing

Scarcely a week goes by without some new headline appearing about the disaster on the housing market. Alone in Germany, roughly a million more homes are needed today. Of the four million social dwellings that still existed at the end of the 1980s, only one and a quarter million are left ­nowadays. In many cases, affordable housing space is hardly to be found, and accommodation in many towns and cities is more expensive than ever. In Berlin, for example, rents have risen by 80 per cent over the past 14 years. Purchase prices for property – and not least those for housing – have risen to astronomical levels. In London, Paris and other metropolises, new record sums are registered every month. Housing has become a field of speculation for investors with great prospects for profit.
What has happened over recent decades? Where is the enthusiasm with which politicians and architects implemented extensive developments in the 1960s and 70s like the Märki­sches Viertel (photo above) or the Gropiusstadt – both planned as new homes for 50,000 Berlin citizens? Why has the state largely withdrawn from the social housing field, and why are so many local authorities neglecting their responsibilities to provide sufficient affordable living space?

In the current, April journal, we have addressed these and other ticklish questions. With the present issue of DETAIL we wish to show economical forms of housing and illustrate the fact that, despite the plight of the housing market, there are positive trends as well — with solutions that point a way to the future for urban planning and promotion and the ­architectural qualities of affordable living space. For ­precisely these qualities are ignored or neglected in times of exploding rents.

In his essay on publicly sponsored housing in Vienna (page 22), Dietmar Steiner describes the tradition and the future of dwelling in his city, which is regarded as a model. Our documentation articles show low-cost housing developments that were implemented with various support mechanisms, including cooperatives, or as communal projects and in private-public partnership. Examples from Paris, London and Zurich show quite clearly that – despite tight budgets – means of realizing unusual architectural qualities exist that are of benefit to residents in everyday life. Communal zones, planted rear courtyards and living spaces bathed in light are a question of planning which, in view of reduced construction costs, set certain priorities and therefore have to be given greater consideration. In view of the present housing disaster, architects bear responsibility for this. The role they play is crucial because, with their concepts, they are in a position to point a path to the future.
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