Berlin Monument Authority  

 

Berlin Housing Estates of the 1920s - on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Political and Social Background


Kitchen in a 2- or 3-room flat of a family working from home and living in the transverse building
Kitchen in a 2- or 3-room flat of a family working from home and living in the transverse building
  Basement flat in Berlin, tenement on Soraner Straße 27, about 1908
Basement flat in Berlin, tenement on Soraner Straße 27, about 1908

  Tenement building development in Berlin, about 1900
Tenement building development in Berlin, about 1900

From the middle of the 19th century, the private sector had reacted to the enormous population growth and the related extreme housing shortage in Berlin by setting up real estate companies and erecting profit-oriented tenement buildings.

After 1900, building cooperatives and building associations established by socially minded citizens gave new impulses to residential building. However, it was not until the first fundamental political changes after World War I that the way was cleared for social housing schemes on a broad basis. Consequently, as a result of the historical alliance between artists and politicians, 140,000 new flats were built in Berlin between 1924 and 1931.

Public authorities hereby focused on a model to abolish overcrowded tenement buildings and speculation, which resulted from the reformatory ideas at the turn of the century. In close liaison with the avant-garde from arts and architecture, politicians sought to realise their socio-political utopias.

Public instead of private, social instead of speculative, comfortable instead of narrow, light instead of dark, airy instead of stifling, hygienic instead of unhealthy: such pointed concepts set the "new architecture" off from the tenement building phase (which at that time had already ended anyway).

History
1889 Amendment of the law on cooperative societies,
Introduction of the legal form of a private limited company
1890 to 1914 Number of building cooperatives increased from 38 to 1,583
after 1918 Collapse of privately financed house construction; shortage of 130,000 flats in Berlin.
1919 The Weimar Constitution incorporates house construction in its Section 155 as a public function and guarantees "a healthy home for every German".
1920 8 cities, 59 rural communities and 27 manor districts form Metropolitan Berlin. The communal reform paves the way to a housing policy for the entire city.
May 1921 Housing Shortage Emergency Legislation
1924 At the initiative of MartinWagner, trade unions and building cooperatives found GEHAG
1924 Introduction of the "Rent tax for developed real estate" (earns 750 million German marks by 1930)
December 1925 Reform Building Regulations issued. Objective: decongestion of residential areas. Erection of transverse buildings and side wings in outer suburbs no longer permitted. Specification of sizes (maximum 1,400 sq. ft.) and layout of flats eligible for government aid.
1926 Martin Wagner becomes City Building Councillor.
End of the 20s The revenue from rent tax decreases. Berlin sets up a 15 million Reichsmark Special Building Programme from its own resources for White City and Ring Settlement, drastically reducing the size of flats eligible for government aid.
1929 World Economic Crisis and municipal financial straits
1930 Abolition of rent tax
1931 Brüning's Emergency Decree, end of government aid for residential building
fill


Growth of Population in Berlin between 1849 and 1933
Growth of Population in Berlin between 1849 and 1933
Settlement on Proskauer Straße, Berlin-Friedrichshain, 1897-1898, constructed by Alfred Messel
Settlement on Proskauer Straße, Berlin-Friedrichs-
hain, 1897-1898, constructed by Alfred Messel

Tenement on Proskauer Straße, designed by Alfred Messel in 1896
Tenement on Proskauer Straße, designed by Alfred Messel in 1896

Martin Wagner
Martin Wagner
(1885 - 1957)

central figure of urban development in Berlin during the Weimar Republic: in 1924, co-founder of the Deutsche Wohnungsfürsorge AG and its subsidiary, GEHAG; in 1925, Bruno Taut's partner in the planning of the Horseshoe Settlement; City Building Councillor of Berlin (1926 - 1933)