Could intergenerational flat swaps solve Germany’s housing crisis?

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Germany is currently in the midst of the worst housing shortage in 20 years, and rents in most major cities are continually increasing.

READ ALSO: Why Germany is seeing the ‘worst housing shortage in 20 years’

It’s an issue that has led experts and politicians to make all kinds of proposals in recent years – from bringing in rent caps, to encouraging people to move out of the cities and into the countryside.

Most recently, proposals have focussed on offering new options to older citizens and making changes to rental law that would affect older, cheaper, rental contracts.

One proposal, from the Green Party, is for senior citizens to have the option to swap their rental home with a family. The idea behind this is that, often, elderly people find themselves in homes which are too large for them to maintain and, in the current rental market, downsizing would often mean they would have to pay a lot more for a smaller apartment. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: In which German cities are rent prices rising the fastest?

The Greens’ proposal would allow older tenants to easily swap their home for a smaller one with a family that needs more room.

Green Party politician, Caren Lay, has proposed the option be introduced into German tenancy law.

“This way, seniors can move into a smaller flat without ending up paying more rent,” she said.


A recent study on “housing in old age”, which was presented at the Bauma trade fair in Munich at the end of April, said that affordable housing for senior citizens is becoming increasingly scarce in cities, while families are often looking for more living space. It also called the impending housing shortage for senior citizens “alarming”. 

Scrapping old, cheap contracts

Another more drastic proposal has also been put forward this week by researchers from the Real Estate Institute of the University of Regensburg.

The researchers, led by economics professor Steffen Sebastian, propose that rents for holders of old, cheap contracts would have to rise significantly. This way, those who have lived in large flats for a long time and continue to benefit from cheap rents, would be pushed to move into smaller flats.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How rents are changing in Germany’s five biggest cities

The researchers argue that there is currently enough living space in Germany, but that is just “wrongly distributed”.


“It cannot be that the state provides extreme protection for people who have been paying a low rent for decades, regardless of whether they are needy or not. And others simply can’t find an affordable flat,” Steffen Sebastian said when introducing the proposal.