Ladies and Gentlemen,
No doubt about it, mass migration does have some impact on cities; at the moment many cities and their inhabitants, both the new-comers and those already there, are experiencing the truth of that.
Naturally, we in Hamburg are honoured and delighted to serve as an example in the context of today’s event. Especially because it helps us step back and take stock: What action are we taking, and are we on the right track?
These are always valid questions; they haven’t just arisen because, as happened last year, the sheer numbers of people from outside Europe seeking refuge soared within the space of a few months. This triggered mass migration of refugees into Europe, to our countries and cities, in particular from the Middle East and North Africa. Europe’s ability to influence this development is and will remain limited, because it stems from the destruction of cities, civil societies and the basic foundations of life in many of the regions that surround us. Because the only way people in these areas can respond to the prevailing conditions is to flee.
In the past three years Germany has taken in around 1.5 million refugees. Last year 1.1 million were registered in our country. Even for a strong, democratic welfare state like Germany, that is a challenge. But we accept it.
In Europa we must and we will learn that the benefit of retreating into the fortress is only a limited one, and that it is no solution to the task we face together. But we also know that a
“logjam” of refugees in the Balkan states would have had a dangerously destabilizing effect. By taking in the migrants, Germany fulfilled Europe’s obligation under international asylum law and prevented a humanitarian catastrophe. The next steps must be taken by the countries of the European Union together: we must agree on the rules that govern borders and letting refugees into our countries.
In Hamburg the important thing will be – and now I am returning to the more specific issue – to ensure that we make steady progress in planning the further growth of cities and ensure that progress is safe and secure. Secure enough for the concept to cope with periodic spikes in the numbers of migrants. Then we can truly be what Doug Saunders called “Arrival Cities”, even if, for a short spell of time, the projected population growth and reality do not tally.
By saying “periodic spikes” I would like to clarify that this is not the first time that we in Hamburg have experienced such a big influx of migrants, and it may not be the last. Migration and new arrivals are part of the history of Hamburg, and the city has often generated new virtues from the situation. In 1945 and subsequent years, during a time of hunger, unemployment and total exhaustion, the city absorbed 275,000 refugees and people expelled from their homes in the east.
At the time the city had fewer than 300,000 dwellings, half of the housing stock had been destroyed. 1.7 million people lived in a city that seemed barely capable of surviving. But the city did survive. Today we view the photos of building sites and the temporary accommodation, called “Nissen huts” after a Canadian engineer and officer of the same name, as symbols of a period of unprecedented development, integration and hope.
After that, the population of Hamburg was appreciably smaller for quite a while. But when, more than forty years later, men and women headed west in droves, led by citizens of the other German state, the GDR, and later on in a unified Germany followed by people from the East of Germany, Hamburg was a preferred destination, once again rendering all forecast figures irrelevant and making the phrase “housing shortage” highly topical. New housing was needed, although perhaps not to the extent seen at the end of the Second World War. The new arrivals wanted better quality than in the post-war age, better standards of urban development and transport services.
Development, integration and hope are the three factors that played a key role in both cases, in both periods of history. The situation seems similar today, but in many respects it is different.
Moreover, our own perception of the city is now different from what it was, and we have a different idea of what we want it to be. We have stopped waiting passively to see what developments may or may not come. Not only have we recognized that Hamburg should and will grow, we welcome this fact. And realize that huge effort and investment are needed; in house construction, education, infrastructure, and in integration in the widest sense of the word. A realization that pre-dates today’s “mass migration” to Germany and its cities.
It is over five years since the then newly constituted Senate of Hamburg launched a comprehensive programme of house-building, partly because it was alarmed by the exorbitant rent increases seen in other cities. That was not what we wanted and what we want for Hamburg. The initial, ambitious objective was to build 6,000 new dwellings per year. Greater networking efficiency, new priorities when municipal land was sold, and a new mission for the city’s own housing company SAGA/GWG, combined to help us to reach and even exceed the target. And we have succeeded in ensuring that about a third of the dwellings in large new-build developments are reserved for the less well-off members of society.
That means that we subsidize and preserve something that I have always found very distinctive about my home-town’s culture: namely, that every neighbourhood in this city is home not only to people with similar incomes and assets, but to a mix of people with larger or smaller fortunes, as well as people who live on a very modest income. Unlike the experiments with social housing developments in the past, which were not always a success, we are now creating a more diversified and stable social fabric.
We must achieve that while at the same time stepping up building activity. Our estimates of the number of dwellings that will be required in future are based on net migration, vacancy rates, properties taken off the market due to demolition or similar, and the additional homes needed for refugees. By 2020 at least a million dwellings must be available in our city. Because we know that, we have meanwhile increased the number of dwellings that we need to build every year from 6,000 to at least 10,000.
We are fortunate that, thanks to prescient action in the past, we do not have to start from scratch, and building cranes have been a feature of the city for some time. This is what has been achieved since 2011: planning permission granted for 52,000 dwellings, 29,500 completed. 11,600 social housing units, of which 7,300 have been completed. We are, so to speak, “on track”, but we cannot afford to relax our efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Building large numbers of homes within the city’s borders, which are fixed, means conflicting aims.
As far as land is concerned, at least 6.7 hectares are needed for every 1,000 dwellings – per year. That equates to 16.56 acres or 721,181 square feet. Just so we know how much land or space otherwise used will be lost - if we really want to see it as “lost”. But the green city of Hamburg and its residents love any patches of greenery, however small – thank goodness.
We are gaining the space we need through internal development, which has aptly been described as “More city in the city” and through expansion: “More city in new places”. There is an environmental levy to compensate for green spaces, known as the “Nature Cent”. This ensures that the additional revenues generated by the ground tax on newly developed sites is reinvested in nature conservation and the care of parks and recreation facilities. This will preserve the green character of the city and the quality of its open spaces. The next time you visit us in Hamburg, if the weather permits a good view from the plane, you will still see, if not exactly a jungle, certainly a city of woods and green spaces – whereas after landing you will still find the city to be a vibrant, urban experience, but not a featureless desert of stone. The task at hand is to make all this happen, at a time when the population of the city is growing fast.
I hope you will have time to see some of our projects yourselves. We are now working on the second part of HafenCity, where a completely new district has grown and continues to expand. Another project is “Altona Centre”, where a modern, new development is rising on a disused railway site, thus closing a gap in the built environment. And we have initiated two more programmes which will more closely unite our city by crossing to the south side of the Elbe and travelling east along the smaller River Bille; these schemes combine commercial uses with residential building.
These are just the largest and most important projects. The general rule is: we must not and we will not stop building homes.
In Hamburg around 10,000 migrants currently live in reception centres and around 19,000 in second-stage accommodation. Some 7,700 of the people in the reception facilities, in other words about three quarters of the total, do not necessarily need to be there. From the legal point of view, they are free to move to second-stage accommodation, where they can take more responsibility for their lives; that would also be a better aid to integration. But it is not easy to find good building sites for second-stage accommodation. I have already mentioned the concept of “conflicting aims”.
But our experiences with, for example, the “Finding Places” project have been good. This digital planning module created at the HafenCity University empowers laypeople to make town-planning proposals. Several hundred men and women in Hamburg have examined the complex data to discover where second-stage accommodation might be built. With the support of the Central Coordination Office for Refugees (ZKF), sites were identified that were both suitable and not previously included in the plans. Overall, this is a good outcome; it has also generated greater transparency and made the necessary decisions more acceptable to the general public.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Of course providing somewhere to live is only the first step along the way to what we subsume under the grand term “integration”. It is a long journey. It starts, apart from accommodation, with language courses and integrating children into schools. It continues with integrating people into the workforce and their local society. The men and women who come here speak different languages, have different roots and different cultural backgrounds. Children often adapt more naturally and rapidly. But there are obviously problems and conflicts.
Here again, it is true to say that one of the Senate’s key urban development policies has indeed always been to strengthen social cohesion in the city and promote stability in the neighbourhoods. And it has indeed always been a task of those in positions of political or economic responsibility to ensure that the economic dynamism of a big city which – despite all the changes it has seen – still remains an industrial city, finds its expression in good employment and education opportunities.
In view of a steadily swelling stream of refugees the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Craft Trades, the city’s business community in general and many individual firms issued clear statements and launched initiatives, for which I am grateful. Because the master key to integration is faster, better training, so that as many people as possible can be found a job.
In so doing – and this is purely an aside – no-one is taking anything away from anyone else. Our country and its economy urgently need qualified workers, especially skilled personnel; and anyone who really wants to know, is aware of what this country’s demographics look like without migration.
At the national level, the new Integration Act has already improved the perspectives. Hamburg was successful in promoting its desire to make it easier for refugees to gain an education or job: for the period of three years the Hamburg job centres have suspended the requirement to first determine whether someone with priority rights wants the job. Moreover, refugees are now guaranteed the right to live in Germany for the duration of training and subsequent employment. And those who have started training before their asylum request has been processed have a legally secured residence status in Germany even if their request for asylum is denied.
The most important aspect of integration is education. At a very early stage, the Senate ensured that greater numbers of staff were employed in nurseries, pre-schools and schools in order to give the refugee children a good start here, without putting too great a strain on the normal working of these facilities.
Last year Hamburg was quick to present its new project “Work and Integration for Refugees”, or WIR for short, which is of course the German word for “we” and a shorthand for “all together now”. This process is designed to speedily qualify refugees as job-seekers. The chief objective was, first of all, to discover the refugee’s existing qualifications and to consult with business representatives to find a way in which he or she could enter the job market. Since WIR launched more than a year ago, we have opened files for about 3,500 customers and conducted close to 6,600 counselling sessions. A modest yet encouraging start, because it is becoming apparent that one in two refugees has marketable skills. It is also clear that it takes time to place people in work. Language is the key. It has to be learnt.
In terms of design and scope WIR is certainly a unique project in Germany. In conjunction with the youth job centre and projects sponsored by institutions such as the Chambers of Commerce and Trades, this approach to integrating refugees into the work force is what one might call the “Hamburg Model”. We know that integration will be all the more successful the sooner our new neighbours can take care of themselves. And it is important that we do not create parallel structures, but expand the instruments we already have.
Meanwhile we have continued the work on a variety of levels and have systematized procedures. This applies likewise to the interface which is our chief topic here: ways to provide accommodation for refugees and create the conditions that allow the houses and their occupants to fit in with their surroundings as harmoniously as possible.
“Refugee shelters with a view to residence”, was the category the Senate defined in November 2015 to describe sites where permanent, well-built living quarters were to be integrated into the neighbourhood. In April 2016 the State Parliament of Hamburg affirmed this objective and differentiated it into many individual aims. The Senate was asked, and I quote, “to develop these sites, depending on the local conditions, into new districts and good neighbourhoods and to make use of lessons already learned.” End of quote. This was followed by “25 points for successful local integration.”
The Senate would have thought to use lessons already learned anyway, but the 25 points do indeed list many things now on the agenda and set to remain there for some time, whose overriding aim is that integration into the built fabric of the city should facilitate integration into its society.
A most crucial element in this will be what we term participation. At short notice, where possible, the Boroughs and neighbourhood management teams take responsibility for actively including all stakeholders: the residents, neighbours, political representatives, investors and the relevant local authorities; plus experts from sponsoring bodies and initiative groups in the neighbourhood and adjacent parts of the city. An inclusive participation process must be set in motion and it must be able to grow in such a way that there is effective communication between all those involved, above all between the old and new residents, and that people make integration their personal concern. That will be the key to encouraging people to accept the new quarters and develop good neighbourly relations.
Of course this process must include approaching the existing residents early on to inform them of, and involve them in all plans and proposals. It includes, if we are quite honest about it, all the things that have often proved to be the weak spot, with the inevitable results: frustration and annoyance in the district over plans that appear – often wrongly, but sometimes rightly – to have been decided over the heads of local people. And support is often lacking in such cases.
That also applies to issues beyond individual quarters. We shall continue to develop the Hamburg Integration Concept drafted in February 2013; thus far it has been a national role model for the integration of migrants who are likely to be granted asylum in Germany. And we are determined to work together with the migrants themselves who can contribute their specific experiences.
A lot of good work is already being done and can be expanded, both by means of self-organization and by using a variety of mentoring and guidance schemes, language services, health guides and “volunteer grannies” or, if necessary, conflict mediators.
We do know one thing: successful, sustainable integration of refugees will play a crucial role in developing stable neighbourhoods. The social infrastructure must be adjusted at the local level, more new meeting places created and the conditions must be right to encourage education and integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
this is a wonderful time for everyone who wants to shape this city. And periodic waves of “mass migration” do not faze us, for in the final analysis they merely reinforce a trend that we foresaw. We believe our “Arrival City” status has been confirmed.
Hamburg is and will remain a city of hope for many people. Already, one in three people here has a “migration background”: if we take the children only, the figure rises to one in two. We recognize the chance this opens up and we honour what these residents of Hamburg can contribute to the city’s power.
Despite all that, I am very much in favour of encouraging those who maybe think it is easy to become integrated to take a realistic view.
Hamburg is also a city of hope for many refugees and in future we must mobilize even more energy and smart ideas to match reality with the natural limits of what we can make possible.
The topic of migration will have to be part of any debate about the city of the future and we will have to create and allow more and more places within our midst where those who have arrived by roundabout routes can carve their path in our society.
Thank you very much.