Homes That Meet People’s Needs and Demographic Change
The demand for senior-friendly housing is expected to outstrip supply in Germany by around two million by 2035. In an aging society, we want to provide people with the opportunity to live on their own terms and in their own homes for as long as possible. Self-determination and autonomy are important factors in being satisfied with your life – including and especially as we age.
We want to fulfill the associated needs with the homes we offer. In the event that architectural conditions no longer support independent living, it is important that the barrier to accessing further care services is low. This underlines the importance of our neighborhood-based approach. Because homes that fulfill these needs are not just accessible, but take the everyday needs of the tenants and the wider social environment into account.
With this approach of making sure that our construction and refurbishment projects meet people’s needs, we can respond to demographic changes by providing our older tenants with homes that are adequate and affordable. We are investigating the possibility of partial modernization in order to minimize costs and disruption. New leases in particular offer us a good window of opportunity to carry out appropriate renovation measures.
In Austria, all new buildings are constructed in such a way that they can be adapted to meet future needs. In doing so, we are following the respective building regulations and OIB guidelines as well as other standards, using these as a basis for planning barrier-free and accessible new buildings.
In addition, we are continuously expanding our range of social services and partnerships and our investments in the social infrastructure of our neighborhoods in order to meet the needs of our tenants.
Responsibility for the senior-friendly housing programs lies with the Chief Rental Officer (CRO). The structure of the renovation program is managed centrally and is implemented via the regions. Changes affecting the structural condition of our buildings are usually conducted by the technical service department.
In Austria, needs-based refurbishments and renovations are carried out in close coordination between the technical real estate management and regional/asset management. In the development stage, we determine and define the location and project-specific housing breakdown, as well as their features and fittings, in advance.
Objectives and Measures
Our aim is to ensure that our tenants can stay safe, healthy and independent in their homes over the long term. In the event that architectural conditions no longer support independent living, it is important that the barrier to accessing further care services is low.
Barrier-free (Partial) Modernization
We therefore aim to modernize around 30% of newly rented apartments every year so that they meet the demands of an aging society. To this end, we review existing buildings to determine their potential for accessibility. We mostly achieve this with partial modernizations, which is our way of keeping the product affordable. This consequently allows us to retrofit apartments one by one, ideally according to the stage of life of our customers, in line with their needs.
We are already planning to make a large share of our newly built apartments accessible and/or wheelchair-friendly and are also looking for opportunities to adjust apartment sizes. More important, however, is the low barrier for equipping and refurbishing apartments for people with impaired mobility. Homes that are completely barrier-free, according to German industry standard DIN 18040-2, are only necessary in very rare cases. Rather, a small number of measures, such as the fitting of non-slip flooring or flush-to-floor showers, are often sufficient to significantly increase the level of living comfort in old age.
In 2022, approx. 10,100 apartments were (partially) modernized to make them more accessible and senior-friendly. That accounts for around one third of all new tenancies in Germany during the reporting year.
Due to the limited investment opportunities, however, we expect the share of accessible, (partially) modernized apartments to account for only around ten percent of new rentals in 2023. However, we are planning to have this share back at its historical level as soon as possible. As of 2023, Deutsche Wohnen has joined the program of (partial) modernization measures to make its portfolio properties fully accessible.
In addition to structural measures, the social infrastructure in the neighborhood also plays a key role. As such, we are also investing in alternative forms of housing with more extensive support services. This is in addition to building extensions suitable for senior citizens and the disabled (see Neighborhood Development and Contribution to Infrastructure). This also includes care and support services for older tenants in cooperation with social institutions and service providers, such as specialized communities for tenants with dementia and establishing neighborhood meetups.
Care and Assisted Living
Since the merger with Deutsche Wohnen, the Vonovia Group now also has 72 nursing care properties with a total of around 9,540 nursing places. Similar to in the rental business, our activities in the care segment focus on cities and regions with positive development forecasts, as these are the areas with a particularly high demand for nursing and other care services (full inpatient care, as well as assisted living combined with outpatient and day patient care). We place particular emphasis on high-quality properties, as well as high-quality care, support and service.
The Care segment, which is new for Vonovia and for which reporting is carried out separately, comprises Deutsche Wohnen’s nursing care and nursing care properties business segments. As of December 31, 2022, we employed a total of 3,798 people in care service or care home management within this segment. Care business operations are based on an independent system and process landscape. 39 retirement and care homes are operated under the brands KATHARINENHOF and PFLEGEN & WOHNEN HAMBURG (around 5,240 places), 38 of which are owned by Deutsche Wohnen. There are also an additional 33 nursing care properties (around 4,300 places) run by other agencies.
These facilities provide full residential care, the aim being to maintain an active lifestyle and residents’ independence to the greatest possible extent. Demand remained at a consistently high level in the reporting year. Senior citizen-friendly services are also provided within the context of assisted living. With its Care segment, Deutsche Wohnen makes a positive contribution to finding solutions to the challenges of demographic change.