All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

How Hamburg does urban development

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As in Vancouver, there is a housing problem in Hamburg. The city is growing fast, and property values are on a never-ending rise. But there is a key difference: Hamburg’s government is playing a very active role in managing the issue. Here I summarized an article from a local paper for an insight into what that involvement means.

Artistic view of the Alsterberg complex

Artistic view of the Alsterberg complex

A winning design for 340 new apartments on Alsterberg.
Since the spring of 2015, the former barracks site between Sengelmannstraße and Suhrkamp has become a major construction site. The new residential district, valued at 50 million, will include a residential mix of 50 percent subsidized apartments, 35 percent market rate rentals and 15 percent condominiums. The complex will offer housing opportunities for families and singles, as well as students, disabled people, and seniors who do not need ongoing care. About 40 per cent of the dwellings are wheelchair accessible. A convenience shop, a daycare center and a centre for people with disabilities are part of the mix. The complex will be supplied with heat and electricity from its own in-house power supply with low CO2 emissions. The design has earned kudos for the architect firm Eckert, Manthos, Tagwerker of Stuttgart, for retaining the heritage brick facades as well as shaping the courtyards around the valuable large old trees.

However, the project has been criticized by the CDU municipal opposition for lacking enough parking spaces; the opposition accuses the government of lack of transparency in removing some of the parking stalls featured in the initial design.

There you have it: green, diverse…and a whole half of it is subsidized. And this is by no means unique; most whole-site developments include a substantial portion of housing that is subsidized in one form or another. How does Hamburg do it? Well, it helps that the city has always kept a large land bank under its control, instead of selling it off to private interests. It also helps that, as opposed to Vancouver, Hamburg is in charge of its own destiny, being the equivalent of munipality and province rolled into one. But possibly the most important ingredient is that neither the government nor its citizens ever bought into the idea that taxes are bad and taxes should be lowered, no matter what. Nobody likes taxes, of course; but everyone agrees that government must be actively involved in making housing affordable, and that takes money.

And then there’s the environmental side of it: new buildings must be energy efficient; that’s throughout Europe, not just Hamburg. But then Hamburg realizes that parking is expensive, and requirements may be relaxed when there’s good transit nearby. That’s just a smart way to show that being green can reduce costs.

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Written by enviropaul

January 19, 2016 at 8:13 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] buildings, new and renovated, were subject to the usual demanding environmental performance (EnEV07 or EnEV09, which means roughly half-way to PassivHaus standard). The new buildings all have […]

  2. […] Hamburg, the public has a say in the early stages of planning.  Another example is the project on Alsterberg, which I described earlier in this blog, where a full half of the 340 is social […]


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