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Working from home heightens trend towards suburban locations

Berlin has been growing for many years: gaps between buildings are being closed and more and more people are moving to the capital. However, the coronavirus pandemic is contributing to the growing desire for alternatives to living outside the city centre. New priorities increasingly include a home in the country, living and working away from the hectic pace of the big city.

The new normal: mobile work

The need to increasingly or even exclusively work from home, a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is encouraging the desire to live in the suburbs, especially among young families and tech-savvy people. The further development of the mobile working world encourages the dissociation of the home and place of work. According to a recent survey carried out by the high-tech industry association Bitkom, one in five people would look for a new place to live if they could work mainly at home in the future.

Improving the living and housing situation

39 percent of respondents in the Bitkom study said that they would rather live in the countryside as a possible reason for moving. But financial savings also play a decisive role, as do residential area and social contacts, such as proximity to friends and family. One in five would like to save on rent or have more living space for less money. “The enduring trend towards working from home means that many professionals are less reliant on living close to their employer,” explains Bitkom President Achim Berg.

Suburban location: “Mein Falkenberg”

The Berlin suburbs, known for their lakes and nature reserves, offer a wide range of alternatives to life in the city centre. Gewobag can report an increase in applicants’ demands for apartments and terraced houses in suburban locations. This is also the case in “Mein Falkenberg”, one of the ongoing new construction projects. The neighbourhood is located close to the district of Barnim in Brandenburg, but still belongs to the municipal district of Lichtenberg. 110 terraced houses and 115 apartments have already been completed. 64 more terraced houses should be handed over this year, followed by a further ten apartment buildings and a penthouse by the end of 2022.

Snezana Michaelis, Gewobag board member, with district councillor Kevin Hönicke at the topping-out ceremony in November 2020 in the “Mein Falkenberg” neighbourhood: “In the future, more singles, couples and families living in these homes will enjoy urban and rural living with direct access to the city,” says Snezana Michaelis. Foto: Florian Pohl/City-Press GmbH

But even before the outbreak of the pandemic, there were signs that multiple population groups could move away from the larger city centres and that a new phase of “suburbanisation” had begun. A trend that is not only being seen on the Berlin housing market, but also in big cities across Europe. Digitally working at home and the change from working from the office to our own desks at home are opening up perspectives that will make the mobile office a standard tool in future working environments. Therefore, proximity to the workplace will not necessarily remain a criterion when choosing a home.

“If I was able to do without something for three months or more, was it really necessary in the past? Was it necessary in the way it was originally practised? Or is there perhaps an adapted, leaner, more efficient way?”

Snezana Michaelis, Gewobag board member, on the future of working from home

Professor Dr Boelhouwer, chairman of the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) at Delft University in the Netherlands, emphasises that people outside city centres would increasingly have separate working and outdoor areas available for relaxation: “This makes it more attractive for households to leave cities and move to accommodation further away from their workplace,” says Boelhouwer.

In addition to the “Mein Falkenberg” neighbourhood, Gewobag is implementing other projects that combine the advantages of rural living with direct access to the city centre. Such as Spandau Hakenfelde – where 149 flats will be built on the peninsula by the end of the year – or “Das Neue Gartenfeld”, one of the most ambitious smart city housing projects in Europe on the western outskirts of Berlin.

New district: “Mein Falkenberg”

The Berlin housing companies Gewobag, GESOBAU and HOWOGE are building the new “Mein Falkenberg” neighbourhood with over 1,200 apartments over 130,000 square metres. Thanks to the combination of a cogeneration unit and photovoltaic system, the neighbourhood will be supplied with electricity and heat in a particularly efficient and environmentally friendly way. Gewobag is constructing 607 residential units on eight building plots, half of which are
single-family homes as terraced-house
in apartment buildings
equipped to a high quality.

Located on the north-eastern outskirts of Berlin, the plot borders a nature reserve and the Gehrensee Nature Park and is connected to local public transport network. Rents range from EUR 6 to 11 per square metre. A majority of the apartments are subsidised and subject to occupancy controls.

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