This week, ZDF (Channel Two from the public selection on German TV) ran Frontal 21....their news documentary show. I sat and watched it. One segment stands out.
It's an eight minute video piece, which you can watch off the site I highlighted. All in German.
Their topic? Well....back in the 2014/2015 era, when all the refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and immigrants were barreling down on Germany...Berlin directed the sixteen states and their associated cities, towns and villages to take in the crowd. Never was this to be a national or federally run program....it was to be someone else down the line to manage and bundle this program together.
In essence, you can admire the thousands of villages, towns and cities which picked out some guy or group of folks, and just handed the mess, and said "handle it". Ten-thousand solutions were then created. Some done smartly....some done marginally....and some done in such a way that it costs the nation of Germany billions per year to stand there today....empty.
Frontal 21 did an honest job on the story. They could have spent two hours really telling you the whole problem, the lack of planning, the lack of leadership, and the amusing incompetence displayed by a bunch of bureaucrats. Instead, it's bundled into an 8-minute piece which pokes at you and just incites the typical German to be angry about what happened.
Half of all refugee housing standing in Germany today is empty. The official vacancy rate is around 54-percent.
Out of one state...Thuringia....it's almost 90 percent of the beds that stand...which are empty.
Berlin still has a fair amount of occupancy...with roughly 20-percent vacancy. One might want to point out that Berlin is also one of the problem cities where affordable housing is just about impossible to find.
Various state government audit groups are looking at stupid contracts signed which led to some rented properties having not just a 10-year lease involved, but some with contracts that extend past 15 years. Breaking the contracts? Only if you pay a fee of a fair proportion. I would imagine the breakage fee would easily amount to two years of normal rent.
One audit determined a housing contract that would run all the way to 2042.
Why all the stupidity? Frontal 21 reporters did an average job on that part of the story. As the states handed out responsibility and requirements to individual cities, towns and villages....there really wasn't an expert or group of people to advise on how create a 100-person or 300-percent migration center out of thin-air.
I followed news stories in 2014 and 2015....often amazed at how cities were reacting. Some were just getting some warehouse operation into a temp mode and just throwing bunks out there. Some were renting older hotels where the owner was 'lucky' to have some city guy offering a long-term contract for five times the amount that the guy was making off monthly guests. One hotel here in the Hessen region....with thirty-odd rooms....was going to be entirely set to be refugee housing for families. The owner was set to fairly well off in three years.
My son came to tell me a story from last year of a guy in the Pfalz who'd gotten early on into this immigrate housing deal. The guy had found some older unused warehouse and bought it for a low-price. Then he got the contract to house migrants. He did all the fix-up work himself...painting up the place, putting in a couple of security people, putting in mini-kitchen units, beds, cheap furniture, and likely taking home 20,000 Euro a month on 'rent' after all the bills were paid. In three years, the guy could likely retire for the rest of his life.....if the migrate deal held on.
What makes all this so screwed up? The 2014 level of immigration was around 450,000, and the the 2015 level was near 1.1 million (often argued by the government to be really 950,000). All of this in 2015 worried the heck out of Berlin and this great enthusiasm to house the migrants fell into play. They all felt that the trend would continue.
Oddly, Merkel and the big-wigs of Berlin got a bit of fear put into them by the end of 2015, and worked to conclude a 3-billion Euro a year deal with Erdogan of Turkey....to hold back the tide of migration.
So all this housing created and rented? By the end of 2016, it's obvious that they overplayed the trend and are stuck with contracts that wasting billions per year. The audit guys would probably like to fix this problem, but only by breaking the contracts and paying out billions more.....will that occur. And the problem of Erdogan quitting the EU deal? Well....it's best not to bring that topic up. You could quit all these contracts and suddenly find yourself next month with 250,000 migrants arriving in Germany, and needing housing.
At some point, near the end of the 8-minute report by Frontal 21.....there's this really neat complex shown. They contracted it out to be built and it took months to wrap up. Now? It's not really necessary. Housing for German students? Well....maybe.
It's worth viewing the report, just to see all the various properties rented and standing empty today.