At home in urban and rural areas

At home in urban and rural areas

Affordable housing, good transport connections, fast internet and convenient access to every day necessities. These were all areas that people linked to wellbeing in the national dialogue. However, people had different opinions about these topics. For example, in rural areas people were concerned about lack of broadband and mobility problems, whereas in cities people were more often worried about expensive housing.

Affordable housing, good transport connections, fast internet and convenient access to every day necessities. These were all areas that people linked to wellbeing in the national dialogue. However, people had different opinions about these topics. For example, in rural areas people were concerned about lack of broadband and mobility problems, whereas in cities people were more often worried about expensive housing.

The backbone of the Republic: a good infrastructure
from an online response submitted on 14 April 2015

Population density and population growth are important factors for local wellbeing. They both vary widely from region to region. The political goal of equitable living conditions aims to ensure good quality of life in all regions of Germany. However, the regions face different challenges.

There are marked regional differences in Germany in terms of population density.

In almost one fifth of German districts and cities, there are fewer than 100 people per square kilometre. In the one-tenth of Germany that is most densely populated, the figure is more than 1,500 inhabitants.

Population density by district at end of 2015

By 2035, a population growth of up to 22 per cent is projected for economically vibrant districts, such as the area around Munich. Districts that are less economically developed are expected to experience a sharp decline in population.1

Population change by county 2012 to 2035

According to projections, 18 districts in the east German federal states will see their population dwindle by one quarter to one third. For the district Oberspreewald-Lausitz a decline of 32 per cent is predicted. But districts in west German federal states are also affected, such as the Wunsiedel district, with a fall of 20.9 per cent.

Affordable housing

There are major differences between urban and rural areas when it comes to housing and living space. While there are increasing numbers of unoccupied properties due to high rates of depopulation in economically weak areas, there is often a lack of housing in metropolitan areas, particularly at the lower end of the market. In the national dialogue, many people talked about how important it is to have access to affordable housing, particularly for families, low earners and young people. It was felt that there was a particular need for action in major cities such as Munich and Frankfurt.

Half of my net salary goes to the roof over my head alone, i.e. my flat, the utilities, gas and electricity. That means that half of every month, or two whole weeks, I spend working just to be able to afford housing in my city.
from an online response submitted on 19 October 2015

For most private households, housing costs are the largest monthly expense. The indicator ratio of rental costs to net household income refers to renter-occupied households.

It provides information on the proportion of monthly disposable income that people have to spend on housing, including basic rent and additional costs such as heating. In 2013 57 per cent of all households in Germany were renter-occupied.

Costs for rent and utilities as a share of net household income

From 1991 to the mid-2000s, the proportion of housing costs in relation to net household income of people in Germany rose from 21 to 29 per cent, that is to say, on average people had to pay out more of their disposable income on housing. Since then it has changed very little.

However, there are many regional and local differences, with particular increases in the economically strong conurbations, major cities and city centres.

This trend has a number of causes. They include income stagnation in lower income groups and changes to housing benefits, along with changes to the rental market as a result of demographic change, the movement of people from rural to urban areas, and new residential construction boards. Finally, people's personal preferences have changed over time, for example, they are now looking for larger homes.

Compared to other European countries housing costs in Germany are above average. However, it should be noted that Germany has high housing standards and a large rental market with well-appointed housing. Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland also have high tenancy ratios. The rent-to-income ratio in these countries is often similar to that of Germany.

Costs for rent and utilities as a share of net household income by income group 2014

For Germany, the following patterns hold true: The lower a household’s income, the higher the proportional burden of housing costs.

On average, the 20 per cent of people in Germany with the lowest income (1st quintile) spend around 37 per cent of their disposable monthly budget on basic rent, hot water and heating. For the next income bracket (2nd quintile), the average is only 26 per cent. For the top 20 per cent it is 17 per cent.

Furthermore, price increases always affect the lowest income groups overproportionately.

The proportion of monthly income that is spent on living costs depends very much on whether people live alone or have children. Single households under 35 and over 60 spend the highest proportion of their disposable income on living costs – at least one third. For single parents the average is just below one third. Couples with and without children spend the smallest proportion of their disposable income on housing.

Costs for rent and utilities as a share of net household income by household types 2014

What Does the Government Do?

With its housing construction offensive (Wohnungsbau-Offensive), the German federal government has established, a framework to increase the number of new homes completed annually to at least 350,000. The so-called rent brake (Mietpreisbremse) has helped to slow down the increase in rental costs. Housing benefits were also significantly increased in 2016.

Mobility for everyone

Affordable housing was a hot topic in cities and conurbations, while public transport was of much more concern in rural areas. People frequently mentioned access to services, public transport connections and timing, and the need for different means of transport to be better coordinated.

My son needs three different forms of identification and tickets to drive the 25 km to his apprenticeship placement in the next state. The bus and train timetables are not timed to one another.
German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Weischlitz on 28 October 2015

The accessibility of educational and cultural facilities as well as services is not only important in terms of the provision of supplies and services. These facilities also have an important social function and provide places for people to come together. Access to cultural activities is part of what makes an area an attractive place to live.

Public transport provides mobility and allows all groups to participate in society, whether they are young or old, disabled, cannot drive or do not want to drive. In 2014, around 5.5 million Germans (7 per cent) lived in households that could not afford a car or did not want to own a car. Half of all families with children have a car, but still rely on buses and trains for the mobility of all family members.

The indicator travel time to educational, service and cultural facilities measures how quickly people in Germany can get from their homes to what are known as regional centres or major regional centres with public transport or by car.

Travel time to educational, service and cultural facilities 2016

Just 1 per cent of the German population need more than 30 minutes to travel by car to their nearest regional centre.

However, people in many rural areas need an hour or more to reach their nearest regional centre by public transport in the rush hour, i.e. between 6.30 and 8.30 am. It takes almost one third of the population half an hour or more – much longer than by car.

In rural areas local public transport is often tied in with school transport. Therefore, it is much more difficult to move around outside of peak times, particularly during the school holidays and on weekends.

In 2016, almost everyone in Germany was within walking distance of a bus stop and almost four out of ten people could walk to a railway station. However the statistics do not provide information on the regularity and the hours of operation of public transit.2 The federal states and municipalities decide on the hours of operation of different bus and train lines when making calls for tender.

What Does the Government Do?

The federal government supports federal states with regard to public transport – through increased funding and innovative pilot projects. The federal government is encouraging cycling with its National Cycling Plan 2020.

Participation in digitisation

Younger participants in the national dialogue in particular stressed the importance of fast internet for their wellbeing. They want good access to the online applications that are so important for their social life. All participants were very conscious of the broad opportunities presented by digitisation and the desire to have the best possible conditions to allow participation in this development. Along with broadband access at work and home, other topics discussed in the national dialogue were mobile internet and the lack of public Wi-Fi hotspots.

There is no internet access in some parts of the country. How is a student in this day and age meant to study without the internet?
from an online response submitted 7 July 2015

The broadband access indicator measures the percentage of households and businesses that have access to an internet connection with speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbit/s). This indicator stands for the digital infrastructure in Germany by the end of 2016.

Regional differences in broadband access: In mid-2017, almost 77 per cent of households in Germany had access to internet speeds in excess of 50 Mbit/s. That corresponds to an eight per cent increase over the previous year. In rural communities on average 36 per cent of households have access to fast broadband.

Each district is marked on the map: the darker the shading, the more households have access to fast broadband.

Select your municipality or city:

The dots show broadband access for around 400 districts and cities in Germany – from left to right, from the lowest to the highest share with access to fast internet in 2016. Every interactive dot stands for one district or city.

How much has broadband access expanded over the last six years? The transparent dots provide a comparison of the figures for broadband access in districts and cities for 2010. Broadband access has expanded throughout Germany. Find out what has been done in the last six years.

Almost half of districts and cities did not have access to broadband in 2010. In 195 of approximately 400 districts, six years ago no households or less than one per cent of households had fast internet.

In the 40 districts and cities with the best digital infrastructure, more than 9 out of 10 households have access to fast broadband. The leader in this respect is the city of Regensburg, where almost all households (99.6 per cent) have access to fast internet.

With the exception of the Hochtaunus district and the Odenwald district, the best digital infrastructure can be found in cities and so-called city-districts.

Almost half of districts with the best digital infrastructure in 2016 had a figure of less than 1 per cent for fast internet provision back in 2010.

In the 40 districts with the lowest coverage, about 50 per cent of households and companies have access to fast broadband. The Wartburg district in Thuringia has the lowest coverage in Germany, where only 19 out of 100 households have access to fast internet. Regional focal points for low coverage are in Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

In these 40 districts and towns, a great deal has changed over the last six years. In 2010, less than one percent of households and companies had access to fast broadband. This share has increased by at least 90 percentage points, on average. The city of Rosenheim accomplished the fastest and most comprehensive increase in coverage. In 2010, only 0.2 per cent of households had access to fast broadband. In 2016, this was true for almost all households (99.6 per cent).

Source: BMVI, TÜV Rheinland.
Geometry: © GeoBasis-DE / BKG 2016.Updated data

What Does the Government Do?

With its Digital Agenda the federal government is also supporting the expansion of broadband to places where it is not commercially viable for service providers.


  1. 1

    The Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Planning (BBSR) is currently overhauling the forecast on spatial development. This includes the assumptions on fertility, mortality and the regional migration flows within Germany. The long-term projection of internal and external migration is subject to high statistical uncertainty. Despite this uncertainty, regional differences in demographic trends will prevail: Larger cities and economically strong regions will continue to attract more people and grow, whereas economically weaker, mainly rural and peripheral areas will experience a further decline in population.


  2. 2

    Cf. Data from the German Mobility Panel.


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