Housing providers in Baden Württemberg plan to expand their accessible housing property by eleven per cent in the coming ten years. New constructions will account for some 80 per cent of the new living space, according to the housing providers. These are the findings of a survey among 73 housing companies and cooperatives conducted by the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim in collaboration with the Chair of Economic Geography of the University of Mannheim. The survey was carried out on behalf of L-Bank, the state bank of Baden-Württemberg, from February to April 2013.

The surveyed housing providers rent out an overall stock of approximately 103,000 residential units, representing about 20 per cent of the overall stock of local housing companies and cooperatives in Baden-Württemberg. Barrier-free apartments have ground-level entrances with less than three steps or are accessible through lifts, ramps and elevators. They have no in-house stairs and feature floor-level showers or wide interior doors for people using canes, walkers or wheelchairs to move more freely.

Accessible living space is mainly created in newly constructed buildings, because rendering existing residential space barrier-free is often very expensive or even impossible. This assessment is reflected in the housing providers’ estimates of modification costs. They assume that the average costs of removing existing barriers, for example narrow doors or bathrooms unsuitable for senior citizens, range at about EUR 17,500. The extra costs of accessible living space in new buildings amount to only EUR 12,500, according to the housing providers.

The surveyed providers estimate that tenants are willing to accept extra costs of EUR 0.58 per square metre per month for accessible living space. However, issues may occur in existing tenancies concerning tenants’ ability or willingness to pay after modifications. According to the survey, two thirds of the surveyed housing providers assume that tenants younger than 65 also appreciate accessible living space.

Age-appropriate living will become a key challenge in future society. The surveyed housing providers report that about one third of their tenants are older than 65 and approximately eight per cent are older than 80. Only four per cent of apartments, however, provide barrier-free living space and easy access.

According to the regional population projection of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, the number of people over 60 will increase by almost 35 per cent from 2.75 million to 3.71 million people between 2012 and 2030 in Baden-Württemberg alone. The share of this age group in the total population will grow from 25.6 per cent to 33.8 per cent. In Baden-Württemberg, the number of people aged 80 or over will increase even more strongly in the same period from 565,000 to 853,000, an increase of 51 per cent.

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