Wheelchair-accessible apartments in bremen: wheelchair quota on hold

The quota for wheelchair-accessible apartments is not coming for the time being, because no one knows which of these "R-apartments" are actually needed. That is now to change.

Guaranteed not wheelchair accessible: A stairwell Photo: Imago

Bremen is to get a demand-oriented housing offer for wheelchair users. To this end, Building Senator Joachim Lohse (Greens), the State Commissioner for the Disabled Joachim Steinbruck and Thomas Tietje, Chairman of "agWohnen", have signed a voluntary commitment. However, in return, the originally planned quota for the construction of wheelchair-accessible apartments, so-called "R-apartments", is put on hold.

The amendment to the state building code, which among other things prescribes a quota of five percent R apartments in new buildings, is to be passed after the summer break – but the quota will be suspended directly for three years. That sounds absurd at first, but: "A quota does not automatically mean that there are suitable apartments," says Jens Tittmann, spokesman for the building senator. The new buildings that have been constructed in recent years have shown that: They have created more R-flats, but not necessarily those that are needed.

Joachim Steinbruck confirms this: "R-flats have been built at Marcuskaje, but no tenants have been found. One woman told me she couldn’t live there because there was no streetcar." So infrastructure is important – as is apartment size: "An R-flat with two rooms is of little use to a wheelchair user looking for an apartment for the whole family," says Steinbruck.

R apartments, unlike accessible apartments, are not very attractive to people who don’t rely on a wheelchair, Tittmann says: "They have very large bathrooms and kitchens – all space that has to be paid for."

Joachim Steinbrueck, state disability commissioner

"A two-bedroom R-apartment is of little use to a wheelchair user looking for an apartment for the whole family."

Steinbrueck confirms this, saying that’s why housing developers shy away from the financial risk of R-flats. After all, he says, no one knows how many and which apartments will actually be needed. "In the state of Bremen, there are around 4,300 people who are considered to have exceptional walking disabilities – most likely meaning that most of them are dependent on a wheelchair. But we don’t know how many of them already have housing that meets their needs," he says. A systematic needs analysis has not yet taken place.

This is to change, and the association "kom.fort", which has been offering advice and information on the subject of barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible living for years, is to ensure this. It is to inform institutions such as care services and social associations about the needs assessment. "We will send them an online survey form with the request that they forward it to as many people as possible," says association chairwoman Meike Austermann-Frenz.

She hopes to have usable results by early 2019. Conversely, a map is to be produced showing the current construction projects: "On this basis, we hope that in cooperation with the housing industry, R apartments will actually be created to meet demand."

Wanted: Family-friendly apartments

She, too, can say little about the demand for R apartments: "We have between people listed – but we’re not the only place to go." From her experience, however, she knows that family-friendly apartments are most sought after: "But there are too few of those, and many 2-room apartments instead."

A quota without knowledge of the needs would be a rather pointless undertaking, also finds Austermann-Frenz. She nevertheless has understanding for the representatives of the private housing industry, who – unlike the "agWohnen" consisting of housing associations and cooperatives – did not sign the voluntary commitment: "They argued that a determination of needs and requirements must be the task of the state." Now the costs for the needs assessment are shared by the building authority, the "agWohnen" and the private housing industry; the latter cooperates anyway, albeit without signing.

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