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Town center renovation: avoid donut effect
Town center renovation: avoid donut effect

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If towns in the middle become deserted as they continue to grow outwards at the edges, one speaks of a "donut effect". If too much new construction is carried out in regions with a declining and aging population, this promotes the vacancy of residential buildings as well as of commercial and commercial areas and impairs the sustainability of the places.

Table of contents Table of contents Urban center renovation: Successful strategies against the donut effect

  • Avoid donut effect
  • Receive grants
  • Regional profits
  • Rethinking building land policy
  • New buildings in old places
  • Conversion instead of new construction

Table of contents Table of contents Urban center renovation: Successful strategies against the donut effect

  • Avoid donut effect
  • Receive grants
  • Regional profits
  • Rethinking building land policy
  • New buildings in old places
  • Conversion instead of new construction

The freestanding home with garden is still by far the most popular form of living for Germans - and it is the most space-intensive. However, two municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia, who have successfully established strategies against the donut effect, do not necessarily have to open up new development areas.

Avoid donut effect: Use existing vacant lots

The municipality of Burbach in the Siegerland recognized the donut effect early on and has been doing pioneering work since 2010 with a community-sponsored program and the “LebensWerte Dörfer” initiative, demonstrating how social, demographic and climate change can be successfully countered. The municipality consists of nine villages with around 15, 000 inhabitants and had already started in 2000 to develop concepts for the urban center renovation together with the University of Siegen in order to improve the quality of life in the villages. The focus was on strengthening the town centers and thus protecting the valuable natural area and thus counteracting the donut effect. Accordingly, the motto was "live inside, protect outside". For example, a vacant lot register was designed for all nine districts of the municipality in order to activate existing vacant lots instead of showing new construction areas.

Receive grants for old buildings

Benefits in monetary terms through support modules that build on one another were able to convince construction and those willing to buy to get involved in the local centers and thus counteract the donut effect. The purchase of an old house is funded with a four-figure sum, but also a new building in the town center or barrier-free renovation, energy-efficient renovation or planting of open spaces in accordance with the village are supported. A prerequisite for funding is the free initial consultation by Burbacher Architects - it should win over the client for a holistic view of house construction and for the topics of age-appropriate living, climate protection and climate adaptation. A building guide gives suggestions for the building design, which shows examples of successfully renovated historic, but especially modern buildings and explains distinctive features typical of the location. In this way, citizens are made aware of the qualities of their own village, the evolved townscape, the language of materials and colors of the buildings.

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4 Show all Municipality of Hiddenhausen

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"Young buys old" - this is how the East Westphalian community successfully advertises life in old houses and does not designate new development areas on the outskirts.

Photo: Community of Hiddenhausen / Christian Grube

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Hiddenhausen supports the purchase of existing residential buildings with a community-sponsored program and thus counteracts the donut effect.

Photo: Community of Hiddenhausen / Christian Grube

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To stop the donut effect, building sites in the town center have to be built on within two years.

Photo: Community of Hiddenhausen / Christian Grube

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Funding enables the renovation of an old building so that more people dare to buy an old building.

Photo: Community of Hiddenhausen / Christian Grube

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Regional economy benefits from the urban redevelopment

The local economy also benefits from this strategy against the donut effect: Every euro in grants has generated 33 euros in handicraft services. Burbach's consistent land policy is having an effect! After the decision to no longer issue a permit for grocery discounters on the green meadow, interesting mixed uses of trade, services and culture emerged in the town center. In the land use plan, which was newly drawn up in 2006, the new building space is greatly reduced. This is based on the political decision to cover the need where possible on areas already developed. The vacant lots are now largely built up. The municipality is currently buying an area previously used for agriculture in order to develop it as building land and is selling the 20 to 25 plots of land - on the premise that they must be built on within two years.

Young people contribute to the urban redevelopment

No designation of new development areas on the outskirts of the town, but effective urban redevelopment: This was also decided by the East Westphalian town of Hiddenhausen after analyzing the population forecasts and the age structure of the community, and in 2007 invented the support program "Young buys old =" "- young people buy old houses". In order to keep families on site, the municipality supports them with grants for the purchase of old houses and money for old building appraisals. The uncertainties are very great, especially when renovating old buildings. In contrast to new buildings, the builders here often lack sound foundations for financing.

This is where the municipality's support program comes in: In order to have the possible uses (and the associated conversion and renovation costs) of old houses expertly assessed, the municipality supports the preparation of an old building survey. With this first component of "Young buys old", the site visit, inventory, modernization recommendation and cost estimate are subsidized by architects and building experts - once with 600 euros, which can grow to a maximum of up to 1, 500 euros (depending on the number of children: 300 euros for each Child).

With the second component of the support program, the municipality then supports the acquisition of a property that is at least 25 years old for a period of six years. The beneficiaries receive an annual basic amount of 600 euros (which in turn can grow up to 1, 500 euros annually depending on the number of children in the household). The prerequisite for funding is the entry of the applicants as owners in the land register and the registration with the municipality with their main place of residence - after all, the municipality is interested in long-term loyalty of the new residents.

Urban redevelopment: Realize new buildings in old places

Since not every old building can be refurbished sensibly and economically from an energy point of view, the subsidies have been supplemented: When an old building is demolished and a new building at the same location in the village center, the same conditions apply to builders as when purchasing an old building. So far, the creation of 57 old building appraisals and the purchase of 537 old buildings in which over a thousand adults and 665 children live have been supported in Hiddenhausen.

Conversion instead of new construction

This is a great success for the community, and the council unanimously decided to continue “Young buys old” indefinitely. The award-winning funding program has also found a number of imitators elsewhere. Germany is now modernizing its old buildings in many places. In the study by the Institute of German Business, the rural communities are advised: "Renovation instead of new construction". The examples from Burbach and Hiddenhausen show exactly this: that with a consistent implementation of this principle and with growing inward scarcity of open space resources sustainably spared, grown quarters are filled with life again, the utilization of the existing infrastructure is improved and town centers are strengthened.

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