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Stigma of large housing estates? Investigation of housing satisfaction in prefabricated housing estates in Mecklenburg- Vorpommern

Rostock, Schwerin and Greifswald are among the cities in Germany where poverty is particularly unevenly distributed. A particularly large number of poor and socially disadvantaged people live in large housing estates - commonly known as "Plattenbauten" in Germany. Formerly socially mixed residential areas in the GDR, they have become neighborhoods with high poverty rates and a high proportion of people with a migration and refugee background. A recent scientific study shows that the social composition of these areas is also linked to a slightly lower level of housing satisfaction in these neighbourhoods and stigmatization by the residents of other parts of the city. However, municipal urban redevelopment programs can improve the poor reputation of the "Platte" and the perceived quality of housing.

Current studies and the analysis of official data show that social groups in eastern German cities are distributed particularly unevenly across the individual districts. This social divide is largely characterized by the differences between the large housing estates and the other residential areas. Poverty rates are higher in the large housing estates, while the proportion of people with academic qualifications or high-income households is low. In addition, there has been an increased influx of new immigrants in recent years. The analysis of official data also shows this for Rostock, Schwerin and Greifswald: poverty is particularly unevenly distributed in these cities and is concentrated in the large housing estates.

Is living in the "Platte" really unpopular?
A survey of residents in 2022/23 aimed to determine whether the sometimes precarious social situation in these districts - according to the data - is also linked to housing satisfaction, appreciation of one's own neighbourhood and neighbourly coexistence. The survey was conducted by Professor Marcel Helbig and Sebastian Steinmetz as part of the project "Scientific monitoring of housing policy in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" in cooperation with the city councils of Greifswald, Rostock and Schwerin. In total, more than 8,200 people took part in the survey.

Surprisingly, although satisfaction with the quality of one's own housing often differs only slightly from the satisfaction values for the city as a whole, the question "Would you recommend your neighborhood to a friend to live in?" was answered negatively more often than average. Self-perception and external perception of the districts are therefore not congruent. In the large housing estates, problems such as vandalism, pollution, crime and noise are also perceived more strongly than in other districts. Neighborly coexistence is also rated worse in most large housing estates than in other neighborhoods, but also where many younger residents live. Overall, it can be seen that large housing estates are perceived very differently in the various cities.

Local authorities can make an impact
Helbig and Steinmetz also investigated the question of whether it is the building structure of the prefabricated housing estates that leads to greater dissatisfaction with the housing situation or whether other factors can serve as an explanation. The analyses show that it is indeed the unfavorable social composition of the large housing estates that leads to greater dissatisfaction. Positive developments and a significantly better assessment of one's own neighborhood can be seen where municipalities have actively implemented urban development programs and, as a result, there is a more mixed social composition of the estates. Examples include the Ostseeviertel in Greifswald, Lankow in Schwerin and Lichtenhagen in Rostock, where new one- or two-family houses have been built alongside the prefabricated buildings and the apartments are largely part of the municipal housing stock. In neighborhoods where apartments are marketed privately, on the other hand, the local authorities have very little influence on urban development.  

Overall, local authorities are under great pressure to act. The researchers refer here to the state program "Zukunft Wohnen" (Future Housing), the federal government's starting opportunities program and civil society initiatives such as "Ein Quadratkilometer Bildung" (One Square Kilometer of Education), which address these challenges.

The results of the "Housing and Neighborhood" resident surveys and the analysis of official data in the cities of Schwerin, Rostock and Greifswald were presented to the public on March 12, 2024. Representatives and residents of the three cities were invited to the online event. The survey is part of the project "Scientific monitoring of housing policy in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi).

Presentation of the results in german (PDF)

Website of the projects

Original publication
The study with the analysis of official data and the survey has been published as a LIfBi Working Paper and is freely available::

Helbig, M., & Steinmetz, S. (2024). Ist die Wohnbevölkerung in sozial benachteiligten Quartieren mit ihrem Wohnumfeld (un)zufrieden? Sozialstruktur und Wohnzufriedenheit in den Stadtteilen von Greifswald, Rostock und Schwerin. LIfBi Working Paper 112. Leibniz Institut für Bildungsverläufe.

Stigma of large housing estates? Investigation of housing satisfaction in prefabricated housing estates in Mecklenburg- Vorpommern
Marcus Lenk/unsplash

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