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interview

Where money and community live under one roof

A lesson in housing association living from Germany

A lesson in housing association living from Germany

The housing association Wohnblau offers investment opportunities for home seekers and yield seekers simultaneously. A business customer of Triodos Bank in Germany, who explains their sustainable concept.

Like the UK, Germany suffers from a distinct lack of affordable housing; it’s becoming harder to find a good, attractive property at a reasonable price.

Something similar is being experienced by the responsible saver looking to invest his money in a sensible and sustainable way: they also have to hunt high and low for an investment with an acceptable risk/reward ratio at a time of low interest rates.

In 2015, Jürgen Koppmann and Benjamin Zeeh founded the housing association Wohnblau eG, which brings the two stakeholder groups together and strives to implement both new build projects and the sustainable renovation of existing buildings for its members.

Housing associations have been enjoying a distinct renaissance for some time now in Germany. That’s because the problem of affordable housing has been a recurrent one in German cities since at least the 19th century. Back then, the first housing associations were established by citizens who had purchased a multi-family property together in order to live in it as a community. Wohnblau eG is one of the newly founded associations that has set itself the goal of creating affordable living space which is focussed on creating sustainable buildings which last.

Jürgen Koppmann explains its approach:

“Housing associations usually bring together people who want to build a multi-family property as a community and also live in it. All too frequently, however, a new building can rarely be financed solely from the membership fees of its future occupants.”

To ensure that new build projects are more than just a pipedream, external investors need to get involved. This does not include property investors solely driven by return however, because the external investors must also be members of the association and should identify with its guiding principles. Consequently, a balanced relationship between affordable rents for the residents, appropriate returns for the lenders and a sustainable design should be created.

We believe this sustainable approach to bringing people with different interests together on a socially effective project is exactly the right one. And it is very much in line with the mission of Triodos Bank to create social change and finance the circular economy.

The association consciously aims at bringing people together from across a wide range of professions and age groups – like in a multi-generational house or, in grander terms, in a social village community. For the moment, however, this remains just a vision. “We are still right at the beginning and are seeking members with enthusiasm for the idea,” says Koppmann. “Or who are perhaps seeking an alternative form of investment.”

 

words: Karina Elmer

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