Residential Space and Urban Renewal
Surpluses in the housing market caused by migration, excessive housing development after Reunification, and an extremely low birth rate in the years following Reunification now pose a central challenge for many cities in the former East Germany. These market trends have a damaging effect on economic, social and urban development: first, because the housing market becomes saturated and leads to market instability; second, because outward-migration has led to the loss of population and communities within the city and region; and third, because it results in the disinvestment of the urban landscape leading to decay and further disinvestment.
In response to these circumstances, the city of Leipzig is pursuing a consolidation strategy for its housing market in addition to an urban redevelopment strategy for all segments of the housing market, which is based on the Urban Development Plan for Housing and Urban Renewal (STEP W+S). This strategy will improve the competitiveness of the inner-city districts by taking advantage of its already well-developed infrastructure. The approach is based on a combination of redevelopment and conservation/preservation strategies.
Population and households
Leipzig reached its peak population of 713,000 in 1933. With one small exception after the war, the population began to decline continuously until around 2000. In 1998, the population was at its lowest point, 437,000. After that, however, it began to climb once again. The city incorporated neighbouring villages that had witnessed high levels of suburbanisation, and recaptured much of the population that had left in the preceding nine years. Along with the increase in population, a change in households types has been observed. Households have increased and become smaller in size, indicative of young people choosing to live alone longer before starting a family.
Strategic Priorities and Development Targets
After the initial jubilation that followed German Reunification, Leipzig was faced with a difficult set of circumstances. The state of the housing market was abysmal, as 25,000 apartments were deemed unfit for habitation. While the region experienced large-scale housing development in the form of suburbanisation, the renovation of the older, existing housing stock was impeded by the complicated legal situation regarding property ownership and restitution claims.
From the very start, Leipzig's strategy for urban development aimed at preserving buildings and neighbourhoods from the Gründerzeit, or Foundation Era in the late 19th century. These homes and buildings were built shortly after Germany unified in the 1870s during an era of rapid industrial expansion, and constitute a large portion of the housing stock. Today, some Gründerzeit districts, such as the Waldstrasse District, have been almost completely restored. The attractiveness of these districts is counteracted by some of the less-favoured districts of socialist-era block housing, such as on the east and west sides of the city, as well as some pockets with a high concentration of vacant, non-rehabilitated buildings (such as in Leipzig East). An "overlap" of developmental and social issues is spurring redevelopment in some of these areas.
The urban development plan entitled STEP W+S was passed by the Leipzig city council in 2000 to address residential construction and development and urban renewal. The plan combined spatial and structural development strategies to create a transparent frame of reference. Its aim was to create a framework for municipal activities to boost the competitiveness of the existing residential space. The city council's strategy promotes existing potential while ensuring high levels of quality for each market segment: old, refurbished buildings, large housing estates, and single-family dwellings.
For purposes of market consolidation and increasing the competitiveness of inner-city neighbourhoods, a reduction of 30,000 residential units was proposed by 2010. Of the 30,000 units, approximately 20,000 would be demolished and 10,000 would be converted or consolidated. Approximately 13,100 units had been demolished between 2001 and 2010. Of those 13,000, 72 percent were prefabricated GDR-era housing blocks and the rest were derelict older buildings. The use of subsidies from different development programmes is guided as much as possible by the target categories of STEP W+S.
While some districts on the near south and west sides have redeveloped substantially, there are areas on the east and outer west sides that have not seen the equal amount of development. For these districts, conceptual plans have been created on the basis of STEP W+S. While selective demolition is an important, on-going component of STEP W+S, it does not mean that these plans are not ambitious. One such ambitious plan is for the Rietzschke Brook Green Belt Area. The plan calls for concentrated deconstruction to be replaced with a new urban landscape centred around the brook with a much higher percentage of green space through a variety of land improvement measures. In these areas, the processes of integrated district development are initiated through a combination of different federal and EU funding programmes, such as Urban II, Soziale Stadt (Social City), European Funds for Regional Development (EFRE), and Stadtumbau Ost (Urban Redevelopment East). Further strategies are laid out in "Instruments for Redevelopment."
Classic land use planning plays only a subordinate role in the process of urban redevelopment. Far more important are an extensive cooperation between public authorities and private initiatives, the development of flexible concepts and means and the controlled use of public resources.
Innovative approaches illustrate that there is room for creativity alongside traditional land use planning, and that this must be made use of. In Leipzig, such approaches include
intensive municipal public works,
property counselling for owner-occupied properties in the innercity area,
utilisation agreements between city council and owners for the creation of temporary public green areas on privately owned open spaces,
and an "Alliance of Reason" between building cooperatives and the city council for the large housing estate of blocks of flats in Gruenau.
Restoration of over 80 percent of the city's old buildings, including Gründerzeit buildings.
Deconstruction of over 13,000 units between 2001 and 2010.
Population increase in inner-city neighbourhoods
Decrease in vacant housing units from 20 percent to 12 percent of total housing stock
Improved living environment through brownfield redevelopment, for example into parks and open space.