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Germany: 150 percent rise in homelessness since 2014

November 14, 2017

German government figures estimate the number of homeless people in the country to total around 860,000 — more than half of whom are refugees. That number is expected to rise a further 40 percent to 1.2 million by 2018.

Obdachlosen in Ungarn
Image: FERENC ISZA/AFP/Getty Images

Figures released on Tuesday by Germany's federal working group for homeless persons' assistance (BAG) point to a shrinking supply of affordable and social housing, coupled with the government's decision to allow to almost one million refugees to enter Germany in 2015, as reasons for the country's exponential rise in the number of homeless.

According to federal statistics for 2016, 440,000 of the country's 860,000 homeless people were refugees. However, BAG stressed that its data does not show hundreds of thousands of refugees living on the streets, since it also took refugees living in communal housing and shelters into account. Officials said they chose to include these refugees in their latest census as they are also in need of housing.

Read more: Mini-houses shelter Cologne's homeless during pre-Christmas chill

BAG managing director Thomas Specht stressed that "while immigration has dramatically aggravated the overall situation, but it is by no means the sole cause of the new housing shortage." The main cause, he said, was misguided government housing policy.

A hairdresser for the homeless

Germany's homeless data by the numbers:

·     Of Germany's 860,000 homeless, 440,000 are refugees.

·     Excluding refugees, of the 420,000 remaining homeless people, 52,000 live on the streets.

That amounts to a 33 percent rise in just two years.

·     Some 130,000 people are thought to be living with partners or children.

·     Excluding refugees, 32,000, or eight percent, of homeless people in Germany are thought to be children or minors.

Federal government's social housing failure

According to Specht, the number of social housing units has fallen across Germany by around 60 percent since 1990 to just 1.2 million, as communes, states authorities and the federal government continue to sell their stock of housing to private investors. "These policies have made affordable housing inaccessible for many," Specht said.

Read more: Germany drafts bill to ease bank account access for homeless, refugees

A lack of housing has in turn led to a sharp hike in rental prices, with one-to-two room apartments in conurbations seeing the steepest rise. To put the issue into context, Germany has an estimated 17 million single-person households, although last year only saw 5.2 million one-to-two room apartments available on the market.

Following the latest homeless statistics, BAG managing director Werena Rosenke called on the federal government and municipal authorities to take greater responsibility in future housing policy. This would, she said, include the introduction of quotas for letting subsidized apartments to homeless people and "the acquisition of available housing stock from private landlords and businesses."

dm/jm (dpa, AFP)