The German Green Party’s proposal to ban the construction of single-family houses has led to a backlash from a number of rival political parties while also raising questions about the party’s stance on immigration and its relation to the environment.
The proposal from leading MP Anton Hofreiter, parliamentary group leader of the Greens, stems from the conclusions of the party’s congress in December 2019. A restriction on the construction of single-family homes has already been put into practice in the city of Hamburg.
“Single-family homes consume a large surface area, a lot of construction material and energy, and they lead to urban sprawl and therefore generate more traffic,” Hofreiter told Der Spiegel Magazine in an interview. In another separate interview, Hofreiter’s colleague, Chris Kühn, said, “The time of new build single-family homes is over”.
Now, there are fears that the party will push the proposal for the entire country.
Migration is a major factor in destruction of green space
While the German Greens cite the erosion of green space and the higher energy costs of single-family homes as key reasons behind their proposed ban, the party also supports mass immigration, one of the main drivers for new construction in Germany and many other Western nations, such as Great Britain and the United States. In fact, the party put forth a proposal last year that Germany should consider accepting up to 150 million climate refugees, which would nearly triple the country’s population and make Germany perhaps the most densely populated large nation on earth.
Numerous articles and studies indicate that immigration is driving the construction boom in Germany. The Wall Street Journal pointed to low interest rates and a record surge in immigration as the key drivers in construction developments breaking ground across the country. At the same time, the construction boom has contributed to increased energy demands, erosion of green space, and more traffic, but as with environmental movements across the Western world, making a connection between migration and environmental degradation is a subject most choose to ignore.
The pattern is also seen in the United Kingdom. The non-profit group Immigration Watch UK has written extensively on the topic, indicating that Britain needs to build 300 homes a day just to meet rising immigration levels and had plans to build a record 300,000 homes this year to meet this demand.
“Indeed, a little over half (57 percent) of extra homes needed in England until the early 2040s would be due to immigration,” wrote Alp Mehmet, the chairman of Immigration Watch UK.
Is the Greens’ policy anti-family?
Some of According to the German Federal Statistical Office, 31 percent of already built apartments are family houses. They have four walls with plenty of space for a family and a garden with a barbecue and swing — all the type of elements that help encourage family formation. The Green Party, however, is against many Germans realizing this dream.
Christian Democratic Union politician Christian Hirte said Hofreiter’s remarks were “typical for the Greens’ disturbed relationship towards property and the reality of life in rural areas”. His CDU colleague, Christian Baldauf, a lead candidate in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz called it an “example of an anti-family, ideological policy.”
Another, perhaps overlooked element of the Green Party’s plan, is that many of the Green Party’s supporters are some of the wealthiest people in Germany, and arguably many of them are already in possession of single-family homes — with a sizeable number living in some of the wealthiest rural areas ringing Germany’s biggest cities. This group would arguably benefit from such a proposal, as it would increase demand from Germany’s already existing stock of single-family homes but would price many less well-off families out of the market for a single-family home.
The Green Party has tried to shake the stigma it has as a party of the rich, many who are seen as the type of voters who enjoy drinking fair-trade coffee and shopping organic as a sign to display virtue but also status as higher-income earners.
Some German media outlets remain skeptical
Some German media outlets are raising questions about the Greens’ proposal.
“Those who save for this type of housing or got a mortgage, and are usually between 30 and 50 years old, now have to worry that the Greens will gain even more influence in the Federal Republic,” wrote Germany’s Focus magazine.
“Michael Werner-Boelz, the Green’s head of the Hamburg-North district office, has already enforced that no such project will receive a building permit. The office only allows multi-story buildings,” the magazine added.
Werner-Boelz makes the argument that the ban on single-family housing will save space.
“Yes, 31 percent of all apartments in Germany are in family houses – but they take 41 percent of the space. In the case of apartment buildings, the numbers are exactly the opposite: 42 percent of apartments take only 33 percent of the space. We have to build tall structures to secure the roof for more people,” Werner-Boelz told Norddeutscher Rundfunk.
The opposition strongly disagrees.
“If the SPD and the Greens in the North District insist on this and ban building family houses, they will destroy the life dreams of many young families,” explained Marcus Weinberg, who ran for the office of Hamburg’s mayor for Christian Democracy (CDU).
“Family houses are as much a part of the city skyline as old-fashioned apartments or modern new buildings,” he added.
The Der Spiegel weekly called the Greens’ strategy a belated triumph of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) era as blocks of apartments, typical of the communist state, would perfectly meet Werner-Boelz’s demands.