Needs-based Housing (Demographic Change)
The demand for senior-friendly housing is expected to outstrip supply in Germany by around two million by 2035. In an aging society, we want to provide people with the opportunity to live on their own terms and in their own homes for as long as possible. We want to use our varied property portfolio to meet the changing needs of our customers and the requirements of real estate markets, particularly the need for accessible homes and homes that are suitable for elderly tenants. In the event that architectural conditions no longer support independent living, it is important to Vonovia that the barrier to accessing further care services is low. This underlines the importance of our neighborhood-based approach. Making sure that homes meet people’s needs doesn’t stop at their door; we also need to consider their everyday requirements and the wider social context.
By taking a consistent approach to making sure that our construction and refurbishment projects meet people’s needs, we can respond to demographic changes by providing our older tenants with homes that are adequate and affordable. We are investigating the possibility of partial modernization in order to minimize costs and disruption. New leases in particular offer us a good window of opportunity to carry out appropriate renovation measures. In Austria, all new buildings are constructed in such a way that they can be adapted to meet future needs. In doing so, we are following the respective building regulations and OIB guidelines as well as other standards, using these as a basis for planning barrier-free and accessible new buildings.
In addition, we are continuously expanding our range of social services and partnerships and our investments in the social infrastructure of our neighborhoods in order to meet the needs of our tenants.
Responsibility for the senior-friendly housing programs lies with the Chief Rental Officer (CRO). The structure of the refurbishment program is managed centrally and is implemented via the regions. Changes affecting the structural condition of our buildings are usually conducted by the technical service department.
In Austria, needs-based refurbishments and renovations are carried out in close coordination between the technical real estate management and regional/asset management. In the development stage, we determine and define the location and project-specific housing breakdown, as well as their features and fittings, in advance.
Objectives & Measures
We want our tenants to stay safe and healthy in their homes over the long term. We therefore pursue the target of modernizing 30% of newly rented apartments every year so that they meet the demands of an aging society. To this end, we review existing buildings to determine their potential for accessibility. We mostly achieve this with partial modernizations, which is our way of keeping the product affordable. This allows us to retrofit apartments one by one, ideally according to the stage of life of our customers, in line with their needs.
When planning construction and modernization work, we also consider adapting the size of apartments. Homes that are completely barrier-free, according to German industry standard DIN 18040-2, are only necessary in very rare cases. Rather, a small number of measures, such as the fitting of non-slip flooring or flush-to-floor showers, are often sufficient to significantly increase the level of living comfort in old age. In 2021, 10,000 apartments were (partially) modernized to make them more accessible and senior-friendly. That accounts for around 30%of new tenancies in Germany during the reporting year.
In addition to structural measures, the social infrastructure in the neighborhood also plays a key role. As such, we are also investing in alternative forms of housing with more extensive support services. This is in addition to building extensions suitable for senior citizens and the disabled. This also includes care and support services for older tenants in cooperation with social institutions and service providers, such as specialized communities for tenants with dementia and establishing neighborhood meetups. Vonovia has signed a partnership with the Humanika Group, a provider of alternative housing for people who need support in North Rhine-Westphalia. The companies aim to roll out their well-established and successful range of communities for tenants with dementia from Essen to Rhineland. Some projects are already in the planning phase. Our new Alboingärten neighborhood in Berlin will provide 15 homes for people with mental impairments. AWO pro:mensch gGmbH is responsible for the management of the therapeutic community. We provide space for communities for artists to collaborate in the Eltingviertel area of Essen free of charge, as well as an area for people to meet and discuss in the district, all in the context of a holistic approach to neighborhood development (see project box “Eltingviertel does art“).
We want to talk to our customers and target groups so that we can understand their requirements better. This is why we remained in contact with women’s organizations in Austria, as well as initiatives that advocate senior-friendly homes, e.g., JUNO, ROSA and Kolokation.