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Will the new Urban Zone be a remedy for the housing shortage?
On May 13, 2017, an amendment to the Building Code entered into force by which the new area type of “urban zone” has now been included in the Federal Ordinance on Land Use. This change will affect practical urban land use planning in 2018.
The urban zone is a new mixed construction area that is similar to the mixed and core areas. Urban zones are intended to accommodate people, businesses, as well as social, cultural and other facilities that do not significantly interfere with residential use. Since the mixed use does not have to be balanced, cities and municipalities have the option of realizing mixed use with a predominantly residential portion.
Whether the new area type will be a remedy for the housing shortage depends largely on the new noise protection regulations: For this, it is essential how the maximum immission values are codified in the Technical Guidance for Noise Protection (Technical Guidance Noise). This administrative regulation stipulates a permissible noise level for the urban zone of 63 dB(A) during the day and 45 dB(A) at night. Compared to mixed and core areas, the value in the daytime is 3 dB(A) higher. The higher night value of 48 dB(A), originally proposed by the Federal Government, was rejected by the Federal Council in the legislative process. In fact, the low night-time value may considerably limit the importance of the urban zone for residential construction in practice, as it is often unlikely to be maintained in the vicinity of night-time commercial use.
The urban zone may alleviate the housing shortage, but it will not be a remedy for it.
In areas where commercial noise is only a problem during the day, the urban zone makes it possible to use large areas of neighboring residential space. For this purpose, the utilisation rates in the Federal Ordinance on Land Use were set fairly high compared to other areas: The maximum surface area figure (Grundflächenzahl) is 0.8, and the maximum floor-space index (Geschossflächenzahl) is 3, meaning that the potential building density is much higher than in pure and general residential areas.
The urban zone is an instrument designed to alleviate acute housing shortage by means of dense construction in areas not previously used as residential space. It will not be a remedy for the housing shortage, though, because new construction areas would have to be identified and developed. This is made increasingly difficult by German and European legislation, however.
Your contacts are the experts from the Real Estate & Construction Practice Group. Dr. Thomas Nickel and Patrick Sahm, LL.M. and their colleagues specialize in real estate law and public construction law.