When the City Creates Housing Itself

Interview with Jens Kreische, Managing Director of Wohungsbau Stadt Moers GmbH

Wohungsbau Stadt Moers GmbH - former mining settlement in the Meerbeck district
The former mining settlement in the Meerbeck district

The former mining settlement in Meerbeck, located in the eastern part of Moers, exudes, especially in spring, a special charm. The city of Moers acquired a large part of the worker's district built from 1904 in 1980. This was renovated up until 1996, taking into account its architectural and social character, and connected to the district heating network. Today, the nearly 1,300 residential units in the Meerbeck colony constitute around half of the rental portfolio of Wohnungsbau Stadt Moers GmbH.

The preservation of the Meerbeck colony is one of the success stories of the municipal housing company and an important milestone in its history. "Before the renovation, the houses were aging and not particularly attractive," says Managing Director Jens Kreische. "By renovating with consideration for historical aspects, these charming houses could be saved from the wrecking ball."

Creating affordable housing remains difficult

As in many cities, there is also a shortage of affordable housing in Moers, which is exacerbated by high construction costs. "Even though we are a 100% subsidiary of the city of Moers, we also have the obligation to operate profitably, which is very difficult under the current market conditions in the housing construction sector," says Jens Kreische, who is originally from Moers. "We also take care of people who would not find affordable housing on the private housing market. The fact that more and more people fall into this category is due to rising costs across the board."

Jens Kreische, Managing Director of Wohungsbau Stadt Moers GmbH
Jens Kreische, Managing Director of Wohungsbau Stadt Moers GmbH

Broad Portfolio

In addition to the very popular houses in the mining settlement, the company has a broad portfolio of accommodations. Prospective tenants can register their interest via an online form. However, with a rental rate of 99%, they may have to wait a while until one of the apartments becomes available. "Our core business is the management of our own rental portfolio," explains Jens Kreische. "But we also manage properties for third parties, are involved in the management of municipal properties, and through a subsidiary, have refurbished almost all schools in the city. When we find suitable plots of land, we naturally also create new living spaces."

Housing for Everyone

Currently, the company does not have a new project under construction but looks back with pride on a showcase project from last year. "Most recently, we built a project to create living space for people with disabilities," explains Jens Kreische. "However, it is legally incredibly complicated to build shared flats for young people with disabilities, but we have brought the project to a great outcome regardless. The lack of suitable accommodations with peers often leads to young people with disabilities being placed in nursing homes. Instead, we were able to create a more dignified alternative. This is not only very satisfying for me but for all involved."