Places of Arrival – Large Housing Estates in East Germany

No 22 | July 2022

In this issue of IRS aktuell, which was supervised by Matthias Bernt, we devote special attention to the industrially built large housing estates of East German cities and their remarkable change of role: from attractive, modern residential areas to media-stigmatised places of departure and from there to new arrival points of migration. In the aforementioned joint project, the IRS, together with partner institutions in the region, researched the background and practical challenges of this change. Contributions in this issue provide information about the change in municipal integration work, the role of the housing industry and demands on open space planning.

Large housing estates exist in both East and West Germany. However, their starting points, their lines of development and the social composition of their inhabitants differ significantly in both parts of the country. Whereas large housing estates in West Germany were from the beginning focal points of immigration and inhabited by predominantly low-income households, the “Plattenbau areas” in East Germany underwent a dramatic transformation: From popular and socially largely homogeneous residential neighbourhoods to places of out-migration and finally to centres of renewed immigration. In this process of change, the socio-spatial inequality in East German cities overtook that in West German cities. more infos

Academic research on large housing estates is dominated by a Western perspective. The districts built all over Europe, especially in the 1960s to 1980s, are considered special cases on the housing market and potential social hotspots. The Eastern European reality is different, because here large housing estates are quite normal. At the same time, these neighbourhoods have to deal with completely different problems than their Western European counterparts. The project “Estates after Transition” has taken up the Eastern European perspective and shed light on the planning challenges of Eastern European large housing estates. more infos

Since 2015, eastern German cities have increasingly become new destinations for international mi-gration. The majority of immigration took place in the large housing estates, which still had larger vacancies in the housing sector. Here, the proportion of immigrant population rose sharply, which posed major challenges for municipalities and urban civil societies. As part of the “StadtumMig” project, the IRS examined the reorientation of municipal integration work from 2015 onwards. The researchers were able to show that the municipalities were able to quickly establish their own structures and cooperation networks, but that their stabilisation remains difficult. more infos

What role do housing ownership relationships play in the development of large housing estates? How do they influence their social structures and development prospects? The IRS investigated these questions in the southern Neustadt in Halle (Saale) and on the Dreesch in Schwerin, among other places. It turned out: East German large housing estates have experienced a reshuffling of the homeowner structure in recent years. Commercial investors have acquired considerable parts of the housing stock and have become a structure-determining factor alongside municipal and cooperative owners. The consequences are very differentiated. more infos

Large housing estates were originally planned with their own district centres and lots of green space between the buildings. In the StadtumMig project, the Leibniz Institute for Ecological and Regional Development (IÖR) in Dresden examined the urban structures, open spaces and infrastructures of selected large housing estates in eastern Germany to see whether they still offer places for meeting, exchanging ideas and getting to know each other. It turned out that there is a lack of suitable meeting places. Especially under the impression of renewed population growth due to migration, open space planning in large housing estates is therefore facing great challenges. more infos

The findings are clear: In many large housing estates, low-income households are moving in. Because they cannot find adequate housing elsewhere, they move to where it is still available at affordable prices. All in all, this increases the concentration of poverty in the large housing estates. What does this mean for policy? The public debate in Germany is still dominated by the image of a “social mix”, which is to be maintained or restored through targeted control of the resident structure of large housing estates. But the scientific evidence for this is thin. Another variable is more important and easier to influence politically: infrastructure provision. more infos

Schwerin-Mueßer Holz is one of three large housing estates in eastern Germany that were examined in the StadtumMig project. Urban planner Reinhard Huß has accompanied the development of the neighbourhood since the early 1990s. In this interview, he looks back and comments on the discussion about large housing estates as arrival neighbourhoods. more infos