German Affordable Housing 101


To understand the affordable housing system in Hannover, one must first understand the funding program. One must be very careful when using the word “Social Housing” in Germany. Many in Germany will take that to mean only certain housing units in certain programs.  If the definition is limited, you will not get gain a full understanding of the breadth of options.

There are several ways in which low income families or persons are served with housing in Germany. I will use my experience in Hannover to better explain the system.

1. Social Housing– In Hannover, the social housing company the Gesellschaft für Bauen und Wohen (GBH) handles social housing. The company is a daughter corporation of the city. As a entity of the city, the GBH owns/manages 13,500 units of housing. Within the stock are social units used for low income families. I will get into the details of social housing is developed and financed later.

2. Wohngeld– Wohngeld is a direct subsidy given to a renter by the Federal State. The subsidy acts like a Section 8 subsidy in the USA. There are many similarities but some notable differences. There is a calculation to determine the subsidy. Families have to verify a lot of information including income and family size. One large difference is the amount of money a family receives. It appears the subsidy in this program is not as deep as the voucher program in the USA. It is unusual if the subsidy is more than 25% of the cost of monthly rent. I will come back to this program in a separate blog.

3. Social Book II/Harts IV: The program is for those who can work but do not have a permanent job or financial resources. Being capable to work means a person does not have an illness that would prevent them from working. A person who cannot work for longer than 6 months because of an illness is no longer considered to be Harts IV. The same is true for a person at the age of retirement. Those who cannot work longer than 6 months because of a illness are covered by a different Social Book, 12. The book covers those considered workable but unable to do so due to sickness.

A person with Harts IV receives cash, assistance for health insurance, a public transit subsidy and housing assistance. As an example, a single person making around €800 a month would receive somewhere around €400 a month. For living costs, this person would also receive a reasonable amount of money for renting. Reasonable is an average for a 50m2 apartment for a single person. The number of m2 will increase depending on how many people are in the household. The amount paid depends on the street or district a person lives in.

There are other programs that I will touch on later. This is a quick summary of the programs I have seen in my first two months in Hannover. In my next post, I will blog on the funding models for social housing.

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