The expert in housing cooperatives on how investors can face financial and demographic challenges
Property investors are increasingly facing both financial and demographic challenges. How does responsible real estate investment work in Germany? To find out, we interviewed Christian Stupka, an expert in housing cooperatives who also works as a consultant offering local authorities advice on demand-based housing.
“In the face of such demographic challenges, property investors need to live up to their responsibilities: Returns must not be achieved at the expense of tenants.” What is your view on this argument put forward by Enver Büyükarslan? In your view, what incentives need to be created for responsible property investment to stop being a niche market and start attracting the sector’s big players too?
Christian Stupka: It is impossible to give a general answer to this question because the interests of the parties involved are too diverse. If a real estate company has to satisfy the return expectations of anonymous investors, this takes priority over their responsibility towards tenants in cases of doubt. What incentives need to be created here? The situation is completely different with cooperatives, where tenants and owners are equal and the benefits for tenants are a fundamental element. In between these, there are a large number of portfolio managers who are thinking long term and to whom satisfied tenants are more important than a short-term increase in profits on an overheated market. When allocating real estate, local authorities should therefore define clear rules for rent increases and caps, which apply to all investors. Munich does this with its “rental housing construction concept” (“Konzeptioneller Mietwohnungsbau” [KMB]). The “incentive” then lies in a land price with which these targets can be achieved.
Your own company, STATTBAU München GmbH, advises municipalities in the Munich region on demand-based forms of housing, particularly on a cooperative basis. What experience do you have with authorities, but also with owners, interested parties, and investors?
Affordable housing has become a rare commodity across the whole of the Munich region. Municipalities are unable to provide suitable housing for teachers and carers, for example. The “local model”—which prioritizes the housing needs of local residents—fails to provide a satisfactory response to this. Municipalities are therefore looking for alternatives, and the cooperative model is one option. Cooperatives build permanently affordable housing, can mix subsidized and privately financed apartments, and can tailor these to specific needs, for example multi-generational living. This model is being met with keen interest in a large number of municipalities. But we repeatedly face the same questions when implementing this model: How can building land be capitalized? What subsidies are available? How can invitations to tender and contracts of sale be designed in such a way that they safeguard the long-term objectives of the municipality? This led the Planning Association of Greater Munich (PV) to produce a brochure for decision-makers in the local authorities with our assistance.
In many places, digitization in the real estate sector is still in its infancy; urbanization is continuing unabated. How can the young generation use digital networking to turn things round so that in ten years’ time there are “human” cities and also attractive projects for investors? Who do you think the “city of the future” belongs to?
I strongly believe that living environments in cities are undergoing fundamental change. Whereas for decades the emphasis was on the physical separation of living and working environments, under the conditions of “Work 4.0” these are moving closer together again. The additional benefits offered in relation to housing are also becoming more important. These include shared ownership schemes to aid mobility but also spaces that can be used on a temporary basis for cultural and community activities. These offerings can be connected extremely well by means of digital platforms. Real-estate companies certainly can’t go wrong if they take input from their junior staff on these matters—for them this is not a utopia but everyday life. However, this is reliant on company management being open-minded, otherwise these types of ideas and suggestions will be lost.
Download the “Affordable housing in the Munich region” brochure here.
Another blog post has been published on the subject of “responsible property investment.” Read the guest contribution by Enver Büyükarslan, Managing Director of Berlin’s EB GROUP and board member of various international real estate funds.