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It is now possible to look at interpretations of situations in which cities find themselves, now one can give proposals for solutions.
Amongst those who are politically and administratively responsible, there is a tendency to interpret the facts from the outset in the light of possible control instruments. However, when it comes to the sociological contribution, to analysis and possible solutions to problems, an extended view is needed. One has to deal with the consequences of population development, with a complex interrelated context that excludes placatory answers.
Population losses and housing vacancies cause significant socio-spatial restructuring between cities or regions, but more dramatically within larger cities. Since the mid-1990s, we have been observing intensified processes of segregation and social polarization. In areas with low-income populations, social segregation due to social transfers continues in the wake of departures and vacancies; poverty districts of a new kind are created and housing stocks are becoming less profitable. In addition, in some areas, there are effects of selective mobility (removal of high-income households). They are reflected in the fact that poverty is becoming more visible in public places and that the social conflicts of culturally different groups of inhabitants are increasing. At least, this results in the increased probability that the segregation processes create areas with a high density of households that are economically, socially and culturally excluded. Social balance is endangered in this way. Significant destabilization is triggered, and the weakened performance of such neighborhoods contributes to further disadvantages. High segregation with negative social selection leads to the neglect of the public urban space and weakens the social competence and the wealth of experiences. Negative image formation and social integration losses often follow.
Population losses and rising vacancies cause significant financial damage to most housing associations and cooperatives and many private homeowners. The markets are destabilized. The problematic under-utilization of housing stocks continues in the use of infrastructure facilities. When not, only apartments are empty, but also kindergartens, schools, public transport, medical practices, shops and other services are much less used, they quickly pose existential issues for the cities, because the facilities are no longer affordable. The shrinking processes are regarded as quantitatively barely controllable and in their current dimension as ongoing. Anyone who wants to move away for job reasons or because the image of the residential area no longer fits him, you will not be able to hold without there are fundamental changes that have a reliable perspective.
It is considered that a redefinition of mission statements of urban development with shrinking population is a necessity. For this purpose, public disputes should take place, which should focus on the renewal opportunities. Basic political decisions are considered necessary; they could and should show the perspective of a “new city quality in shrinkage”.
Urban renewal programs with the necessary steering capacity, within which clear priorities have to be set, should be developed and financed to the extent necessary. One of them is a demolition program and management (including the reorganization of land), as well as a high-quality, integrative development of the remaining parts of the city and a focus on investment priority areas (including large housing estates). Ownership in the stock is considered particularly eligible.
New construction activities should focus primarily on inner-city areas. This would require a change in the tax treatment of homes on new land, although it can be expected that the demand for this type of housing will not decline significantly. In particular, the question has arisen as to what extent the previous practice of urban development and the promotion of new construction and owner-occupied home ownership has contributed to the vacancy problems of today. Overall, the range of financial assistance instruments dominates. Instruments of the “regulative politics” (commandments and prohibitions), but also concepts for the qualitative improvement remain outside. But there is hope that, with the help of financial support, it will be possible to stabilize market forces again. On the “soft” side are the proposals to encourage municipalities to deal with these issues publicly and to develop viable (positive) concepts of urban shrinkage. The issue of a possible immigration policy has not yet been addressed, nor the issue of improved family policies.
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