The issue of affordable housing is back. Rising rent prices and expensive new construction projects have made affordable apartments a rarity in big cities. The free market economy has consistently failed to solve the problem of housing for the less well-off. In the past only government investment, especially in the form of construction programmes for subsidized apartments, has proven capable of providing adequate housing for all income levels. Yet the model for the construction of subsidized apartments introduced in West Germany in 1950 was characterized by one element that distinguished it from both the centrally planned economies of East Germany and other socialist states and the programmes of the country’s western European neighbours: the status “subsidized apartment” was and is temporary. After a set period of time the apartments built with public funds become private property. This is one reason why the number of subsidized apartments in Germany is decreasing despite new construction and why renters are confronted with massive rent increases as soon as their apartments lose their subsidized status. In the context of the long history of policies of more or less subsidized housing in Europe, this international selection of historical and contemporary short films explores the issue of housing as one of the most basic human needs and the effects of a primarily profit-based approach to city and regional planning.
Introduction: Florian Wüst