What is Baugruppen and is it the answer for sustainable housing in the UK?

Find out all about the German social housing movement Baugruppen. Learn how it is the cheaper, better, community focused answer to sustainable housing.

sustainable housing

There is a bit of a UK housing crisis at the moment with a severe lack of sustainable housing available. This means house prices are high, lending is expensive and even renting is expensive, creating a problem. There is a need for a solution and quickly too.

There are solutions available such as building a significant amount more social housing or encouraging private housing developments to build more.  Both these options will help alleviate the housing crisis but are perhaps not as sustainable an option as you would like, they both require significant public investment. The solution that this article will look at is Baugruppen.

What is Baugruppen

Baugruppen is a social and sustainable housing movement with its origins in Germany and in particular Berlin. The idea is that a group of similarly minded people pool together their resources and mortgages to build community led housing.

The micro community led movement could be a group of 3-20 or so families, young couples, retirees and singles coming together to plan a housing situation. One of two key ideas to Baugruppen is the group of home owner wannabes will create an active and communicative community long before construction and help create a sustainable community.

The second key idea is the cost. By cutting out developers you instantly eliminate the marketing costs, and all the various stages of profit from developers to estate agents. This cost elimination is often thought to be around 20%.

Benefits of Baugruppen

The idea of Baugruppen is to create compact, healthy and happy living spaces for self interested communities. You will want to create a small housing estate or apartment block that has a pleasing design and well thought out layout for the community.

This could mean being close to shops, schools, workplaces and leisure activities, you may want a care free environment, saving yourself a fortune and saving the environment. The idea is to give you, your family and the other families involved a perfect, happy location unique to your desires and wants.

There are other benefits to Baugruppen. The movement often leads to environmentally pleasing designs and eco friendly homes. This is the case because the people or community that commissions the build care about their future homes.

This means long term planning will be discussed at length and important decisions will be made early on, decisions such as installing solar panels on the roof, creating a community garden space with room for growing vegetables  and to create and a nice environment. The people will care about the utility bills and the sustainability of the building and no short cuts will be made.

Baugruppen communities very often commission buildings that push architectural design. This is for many reasons, a Baugruppen is often formed by a core group of friends that share a value, and this creates a strong message and something which is not easily removed in planning. People like living in buildings and communities that look nice, so why would a community led movement create an ugly environment for their families, why would you create a monster out of a life project?

Finally one of the great benefits of Baugruppen is the community, any particular Baugruppen development will already in place interested community spirit from the time of planning. This means by before planning different families and people will start bonding, and before moving in, even before construction they already know their neighbourhood really well.

How is Baugruppen the solution to the lack of sustainable housing?

So having looked at in some detail the benefits to a Baugruppen project it is time to answer the question. How is Baugruppen the solution to the lack of sustainable housing in the UK?

Well it all comes down to cost. A figure was released last week that said it might take an average family over ten years to start buying a home compared to 3 years in 1997. This is a dire situation and a clear result of a stagnant housing market which offers new buyers very little; all as a result of a lack of sustainable housing.

As mentioned to earlier a Baugruppen development is a cheaper enterprise than commercial developments because there is no need for marketing costs or the make a profit, with figures showing that Baugruppen developments are often 20%-25% cheaper.

The movement is unfortunately pretty much unheard of in the UK at the moment and will need heavy public encouragement but it would work. There are millions of young professionals, trades men and women, service industry workers and people aged between 18 and 30 that will want a home of their own. There is a need for sustainable housing, a demand and if people started working together to create a community based home they would succeed in achieving their own home.

If this movement was taken up on a large scale it would mean that sustainable housing in the UK would be a community led possibility.

Image courtesy of iJuliAn

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