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The Social Democratic Party’s Housing Construction Program for the Western Occupation Zones (May/June, 1949)

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We have more than a million idle workers (March 1949). Of those, more than one-quarter are construction workers in some states. We have an idle construction economy, which could be put to immediate use for housing construction.

We have a large assortment of domestic building materials; we have sufficient coal for the building materials industry.

We have architects and engineers with ideas. They represent intellectual capital that is simply waiting to prove itself with modern construction methods.

The economic possibilities – labor, raw materials, production sites – are in place. Where do we now get the necessary funds to set the machinery of a construction economy, especially for social housing, in motion?

b) Necessary capital and how to procure it

Necessary capital

Starting from the current average building costs (including connecting the utilities – though without land and construction costs), the following approximations are predicted for the coming years:

Building costs per apartment (on average) in the year

1949: 12,000 DM
1950: 11,500 DM
1951: 11,000 DM
1952: 10,000 DM.

With planned and well-organized construction activity, the economies of scale will probably be greater than assumed. By all indications, it will already be possible to build apartments for less than 12,000 DM in 1949. However, like the determination of the need for material, the determination of capital needs for “Plan A” was deliberately set at a minimum when it came to expected progress and a maximum when it came to safety.

[ . . . ]

c) Rent

In terms of rental policy, the SPD advocates the following program:

1. For new construction, the existing rent level for new buildings applies. Rent increases for new construction, both for existing new buildings (built between 1919 and 1948) and for future new buildings, are presently ruled out.

[ . . . ]

9. Organization of social construction

Construction and settlement carriers

With the appeal for housing construction at the Düsseldorf Party Congress in September 1948, the SPD embraced the promotion of all forms of property. The appeal refers specifically to single-home construction, non-profit housing construction, as well as the private construction of rental apartment houses. It is crucial for the Social Democratic housing policy that all recipients of public subsidies for housing construction are subject to uniform regulations concerning the calculation of costs and profit. A model for this has been developed in the work of non-profit housing construction companies (construction cooperatives and housing construction societies). Whoever receives public subsidies must submit to construction-cost controls, to the determination of profit possibilities, and to oversight regarding the use of rents to cover costs and maintain the building. Here, an important task will fall to the non-profit companies, without their receiving a monopoly over the housing economy, which they themselves have not sought. They deserve support especially because they forego the generation of capital profits by their own volition and purpose.

Housing construction laws

So far, the necessary construction of 5 million housing units has been regulated only to a limited extent. Rebuilding laws, rubble clearance laws, and other ordinances exist, but are insufficient. Instead, it is necessary to create housing construction laws that regulate the promotion of housing construction, the assessment of rents, and the use of public subsidies. Apart from that, all organizational and legal measures must aim to involve the central offices only to the extent necessary to pave the way for the will to engage in social building. In addition, every kind of self-help that fits within the framework of the overall program shall be promoted.

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