Today we had tours by three quite different groups, a social housing cooperative, a community building facilitator and tea with a family who own an appartment.


To get the morning off to a great start Bengamin showed us around his Wohngenossenschaft project (housing cooperative) called G.E.N.O.V.A. This community, split into two schemes GENOVA 1 and GENOVA 2, is primarily for people living with a mental or physical disabilities and special needs. It was enabled by a government policy which incentivised investment in housing cooperatives through giving families up to 10.5% interest on their investment depending on the amount of children they had (up to three children). The return would be given immediately as cashback allowing the cooperatives to borrow for 25 years with ethical banks. GENOVA have also raised €1million euros from investors through a share offer at 3.8% (looking to reduce to 2.5% soon). The project is €20million euros in total which will be paid back after 42 years.

GENOVA 1 in Vauban

GENOVA 1 in Vauban

In GENOVA 2 the project group decided who was living where with only one meeting using a room-sized plan of the blocks. Apparently the meeting finished with everyone stood happily on the flat they wanted. It is interesting to see the ways in which these communities save money in building their own homes. GENOVA occupies two entire street plots and saved money by building a bridge connecting the two blocks so that they only require one lift.

To live in the project you have to be a member of the association which costs €520 for one refundable share. This membership allows access to updates when properties become available. If there is an opening then applicants are given an interview by a steering group (Aufsichtsrat) comprised of three people in the community (not the immediate neighbour) with priority going to people with disabilities given the project’s social underpinnings. The successful applicant then has to pay €30,000 up front to buy into the project and then €10/m2 thereafter in monthly rent. Bengamin, who lives in a 100m2 ground floor flat, bought in for €30k, invested €30k (at 3.8%) and pays €1000 per month in rent.

Voluntary caretaker groups (hausmeister) undertake handy work on plumbing, electrics, gardens and there are two employees, one who works on finance and one at mediating conflict.

Bengamin then took us to his own place in GENOVA 1, a spacious 100m2 flat with a terrace and garden. The bathroom was the only standard piece, built in a factory and craned in fully fitted, but all other walls and finishes were up to him and can be changed as needed.

Steve Bendle and Jon Broom in front of a ground floor flat in GENOVA 1

Steve Bendle and Jon Broome in front of a ground floor flat in GENOVA 1 (note the grapes)


After leaving Bengamin we met Jurgen Feldermeyer, a Baugruppen project manager with an office of four people in Vauban itself. There have been around 110 self-build groups in Vauban (80% of the total buildings) and Jurgen has worked on around 12 schemes personally, a service which costs groups €130/m2. The office includes one admin staff, one bookkeeper and two project managers.

The project manager’s job is to act as the go-between for the client and architect. They draw up the finances with the architects, run participatory workshops and inspect on site to keep an eye on spending. Ethical investment (Ethisch-ökologische Geld­anlage) was key to getting projects off the ground and Triados bank seems to be the main helper for difficult or important sites.

Jurgen introduced us to the concept of Mietshaeuser-Syndikat, a fully mutual cooperative of cooperatives which member properties pay rent (even after mortgages have been paid off) and make solidarity contributions to the wider umbrella organisation with the amount depending on the square meterage. We were shown a Mietshaeuser-Syndikat property in Vauban called Sonnenhöf which is €6.20/m2/month with a build cost of €2050/m2.

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The courtyard in Mietshaeuser-Syndikat property Sonnenhöf

It seems that there are forces capitalising on Baugruppen as it has shown to be successful. A new scheme, Gutleutmachen, which has yet to break ground is more expensive than Vauban with land costs at €500/m2 (compared to €350/m2).


Our third visit of the day was to Jorg and Heike, a lovely couple in a two-block scheme with a very different perspective to Wulf from the day before. Jorg was active on Vauban’s first Baugruppe project ‘Arbeit und Wohnen’ (1999) which was envisioned as a 2000 watt (per day) community. As an ecologist himself, Jorg envisioned a low impact housing project using 16,000kwh/annum of primary energy per person and which they found themselves constantly battling the planning department about in the early days. To Jorg, Vauban was a community-led scheme and not a top-down process as Wulf had painted.

Their flat now in Kleehaüser is one of 25 in their five-storey block which range from 50m2 for a 2-bedroom flat to 60m2 for a 3 bedroom flat at a €2000/m2 build cost with 40% private rented. Five large MVHR systems support the Passivhaus properties with lovely rusty exhaust vents in the garden (pictured).

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Kleehaüser garden and bike shed (note the rusty MVHR exhaust bottom right)

Inside a Kleehaüser appartment

Inside a Kleehaüser appartment


Kleehaüser weathered oak facade