By Charles Smethurst, CEO of Dolphin Trust
It is a well reported fact that many of Germany’s major cities experience an acute shortage of residential housing. A 2016 report from Savills shows that several German cities have residential vacancy rates of less than 2%.
As CEO of Hanover-based Dolphin Trust, I have observed the challenge of accommodation undersupply for more than 25 years. The strategy that we now undertake is partly focused on helping to address our country’s housing shortage.
As we consider bridging the gap in the supply of essential homes for our nation, Germany is confronted by the same challenges as many other countries around the world. We must protect our planet where we can. Tackling this challenge cannot solely revolve around filling empty, unspoiled and natural land with new building structures.
Whilst winning planning permission on unspoiled land is an inevitable consequence of the growing population challenge that the world faces, we must all think sensitively about the environmental impact that comes alongside most major building projects.
I feel passionate that all conscientious real estate industry developers and construction companies should take a considerate, responsible and intelligent look at how we can utilise unused, derelict and empty complexes – buildings that have the potential to bring significant value into our communities and our respective economies.
As I consider the subject of thought leadership in the attempts to address this dilemma, I must give credit to the German government. Germany’s long-standing tax break, an initiative that was originally commissioned more than 20 years ago, permits high-rate German tax payers to enjoy some tax leniency, when they purchase and oversee the renovation of a German listed building.
As a result of this tax break, Dolphin Trust has been able to give a new future and a new purpose to dozens of historical buildings. There are many project examples that I could share to present the profile and the value of our work. The two that I’m especially proud of are located in Mainz and Berlin. Our project in Mainz was once used as an army barracks. It now o‑ffers quality apartments to 113 families. The second project, located in Berlin, was a former post office – known as “Carrée Alte Post”. We are now deep into the process of converting this building into apartments. When our work is complete, 139 German families will enjoy high-quality, energy-efficient homes in a very convenient area of Berlin.
In the months and years ahead, our work will also see us convert a 350,000 sq.m. site, located within a 40-minute commute of Berlin, into a sought-after housing complex. This site encompasses more than 11 German listed building projects.
As I travel the world on business, I find myself frequently discussing our business model and the associated German tax break. My business contacts in many different countries often share their frustration and question why their governments don’t adopt similar policies and strategies to ease their own housing shortage issues.
The work of Dolphin Trust has proven that there are many advantages to be gained by giving a new future and a new purpose to historical buildings. cs