Since reunification, the average living space per capita has grown steadily - but this trend is now history, especially in the big cities. Because rents have exploded, some people are living in smaller spaces. The situation is quite different for homeowners and retirees.
The sharp rise in prices on the real estate market in many places has noticeably slowed the long-term trend toward larger apartments. Among renter households in major cities, the average living space per capita even declined over the past decade, according to a study by the Institute of the German Economy (IW). "Never in recent history have people spent so much time in their own four walls as during periods of lockdown," the study said. But calculations by the IW based on the socio-economic panel showed large differences in the distribution of living space.
According to the study, owners live in 125-square-meter apartments on average, while tenants live in 75-square-meter apartments - 48 square meters per capita for owners and 35 square meters for tenants. According to the study, the average living space per capita in Germany has increased by 34 percent since 1990. Since the start of the real estate boom in 2010, however, the increase has slowed noticeably. This is mainly due to the development among tenants, the IW reports. Here, the average living space per capita has stagnated since 2010. In major cities, it is even falling.
At the same time, the proportion of tenants who have less than one living space per household member is again growing significantly, having previously declined for a long time. Among homeowners, on the other hand, the amount of living space has continued to rise significantly. According to the study, in the overall population, living space of more than 41 square meters per capita already places people in the top 50 percent, and 83 square meters per capita and more places them in the top 10 percent.
Trends such as migration, urbanization and demographic change are clearly reflected in the real estate market, according to the study. The proportion of single-person households rose from 34 to 42 percent between 1990 and 2018, according to the IW, which is close to employers. Three-quarters of all households now have a maximum of two people living in them. Households with three or more people, on the other hand, had lost relevance for the housing market. The proportion of tenants with a migration background rose from 25 to 32 percent between 2010 and 2018.
While the differences between different income groups are quite small, they are all the greater between migrants and people without a migration background: on average, people with a migration background have 30 square meters available per capita, while people without have 45 square meters. Elderly people have the most space: on average, a pensioner in Germany has 60 square meters of living space.
The aging of society is also reflected in the data. In 2018, more than 40 percent of owner households were older than 65 - up from just 27 percent in 2000. The share of owner households under 45 years old halved to just 15 percent over the same period.