About the Affordable Cities blog series and #BetterUrbanHousing
People living in cities across the world are facing the effects of the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis. OECD Champion Mayors recently endorsed the new “OECD Brussels Blueprint for Affordable cities and Housing for All” at the Brussels Urban Summit where they shared innovative solutions to tackle these challenges and drive more inclusive economic growth. They continue to drive efforts that shape a more affordable, equitable and resilient urban future. www.oecd-inclusive.com/champion-mayors/
As in almost every city, citizens in Düsseldorf are feeling the effects of the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting spike in the cost of living is a major challenge for our constituents. At the same time, Düsseldorf’s population continues to grow and the pressure to find suitable and affordable housing is increasing day-by-day. The city is taking ambitious action – to ease both short-term offers and present long-term solutions.
Planning for progress
Düsseldorf’s Housing Action Plan requires that private developments allow for at least 50% of units to be allocated to publicly subsidised and price-controlled housing. Priority access is given to affordable housing for trainees and unskilled workers, but the plan also promotes the construction of housing for seniors and housing groups (housing for a mix of generations) to ensure a healthy social mix within the city.
The city is working to expand this approach into a “Düsseldorf building land model” which will accelerate the development of new residential areas and establish consistent guidelines on the use of urban development instruments.
Partnering on public land
Düsseldorf has few sites that are suitable for development, and too many of those that are remain blocked by land speculators. On top of that, the recent surge in construction costs and interest rates has made it more difficult for private investors to build.
To unlock new sites, the city has expanded its focus to the development of municipal land in partnership with the municipal housing company (SWD), which is tasked with delivering mixed residential neighbourhoods and the provision of affordable housing.
For Düsseldorf, with Düsseldorf
To support our ambition, the municipality engages in regular dialogue with the housing industry and special interest groups. This involves communicating and co-ordinating the housing industry’s perspective to political bodies and translating them into political goals and resolutions, as well as into concrete projects. The aim of this exchange is to find joint solutions, such as the rapid issuing of building permits.
Homes before holidays
We are also conscious of the need to protect the housing stock for the use of our residents. To support this, the first housing protection statute came into force in October 2019. The aim of the statute is to preserve housing for the general housing market and to return it to the housing market after it was used for a purpose other than that for which it was intended (especially as short-term rentals or vacant investment properties). By the end of 2022, almost 200 such apartments had been made available again to the traditional housing market.
The city is also working to promote sustainable construction and upgrades to energy efficiency though new construction projects. Sustainable construction and energy-efficient refurbishment not only contribute to reducing CO2 emissions, but can also reduce housing costs for our residents in the long term.
Addressing the crises around the increase in the cost of living as well as the lack of affordable housing requires a wide range of measures. The approaches we presented represent just some of the ways in which the city of Düsseldorf can address these challenges.
It is important that we balance short-term and long-term solutions to provide sufficient and, most importantly, affordable housing to the residents of Düsseldorf. That requires teamwork between the city, municipal subsidiaries, housing companies and private investors – working together housing we can drive Düsseldorf’s development and steer our city towards a better quality of life.
About the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative
Created in 2016, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a global coalition of mayors who meet on a regular basis to share their experience in the pursuit of inclusive growth in cities. Since its inception, over 100 different mayors from around the world have joined the Initiative, contributing their voice to the global debate, and making major strides in their cities toward youth empowerment, sustainable climate policy and support for SMEs. The Champion Mayors will meet at the Brussels Urban Summit on 13 June to drive change on improving housing affordability and cost of living for residents in their cities.
Dr. Stephan Keller is the Mayor of Düsseldorf, Germany’s seventh-largest city. He was elected in September 2020 and is a member of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU).
Keller was born in the German city of Aachen in 1970.
He studied law in Bayreuth and Birmingham. He completed his studies with the 1st State Law Examination at the University of Bayreuth, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) at the University of Birmingham (1996), and the 2nd State Law Examination at the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf (1999). In 2010, he was awarded a law doctorate (Dr. iur.) from the Ruhr University in Bochum.
From 1999 to 2000, he worked as a consultant for fundamental issues of the municipal constitution, administrative structure reform, and immigration law at the German Association of Cities in Cologne. From 2000 to 2005, he managed the office of the chief executive. In 2006, he then moved to the Association of Towns and Municipalities of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf as Alderman for Urban Development, Environment, and Municipal Economy. From 2011 to 2016, he served as Commissioner for law, order, and traffic in the state capital of Düsseldorf. Before he was elected Mayor of Düsseldorf, he served as deputy mayor and city director in Cologne.
Keller is married and father of three children.