Housing Market / Price Analysis, Program / Subsidy Evaluation, Housing Policy Institution Design, Housing Investment Reconnaissance, Social and Affordable Rental Housing

I look back on 30 years of housing market analysis sector, policy and institutional design as well as investment reconnaissance work.

After completing my studies, in the 1990s I became a sector economist when working with the late Ulrich Pfeiffer at empirica in Bonn and Berlin. Ulli had been the legendary head of the housing department of the German federal ministry of construction and spatial planning in the 1970s when Germany built 500,000 housing units per year – a figure that has never since been reached. I was also influenced by Ulli’s wife, Toni Sachs-Pfeiffer, who brought her American spirit into the countless debates with investors and government agencies especially when rebuilding Berlin after the fall of the wall.

Starting in 1991 I performed the first in-depth housing sector review for the former German Democratic Republic followed by several detail work programs. One key result of our work was the introduction of a soft rent control system (usury ceilings moving with surveyed rent levels) replacing the socialist rent setting mechanism. It was accompanied by a rapid increase in rents to cost covering levels which, for vulnerable households, was mitigated by the introduction of housing allowances. This shock-and-support reform move created a key strategic advantage for housing sector development in East Germany over other transition countries that still today struggle with rent controls, insufficient willingness to pay by households weaned to government-supplied housing services and investment, and thus chronic underinvestment.

In 1994 I pioneered a comparative analysis of the private rental housing legal, tax and subsidy regime in the European Union. Unfortunately, until today the EU has no direct competency in housing policy, which forced us sector specialists into – rather accidental – assignments on individual EU Member States, and more typically into working outside the EU. In the context of pressing social housing needs, in particular in cities, there is a developing agenda on the level of EU-wide development financial institutions, which I am currently supporting through advising the Council of Europe Development Bank on implementing the InvestEU program.

My housing sector assignments have been across the entire spectrum of topics: comprehensive housing policy design and fiscal reviews (1999 Armenia, 2000 Czech Republic, 2003 Central/Eastern Europe (book project), 2019/20 Lithuania, 2020 Saudi Arabia), emergency and refugee housing programs (1999 Armenia, 2000 Palestine), housing assistance strategies and institutions (1996/2000 Palestine, 1996/2000 Philippines, 2018 Uzbekistan), rental sector reform (2004/5 Central/Eastern Europe comparative, 2006 Poland, 2006 Egypt, 1996 South Africa). Housing sector work has often overlapped with mortgage sector assignments to create the basis for lending, bankable assets and borrowers.

I also advise both public and private investors on housing investment reconnaissance. In the 1990s I managed several work programs for public, non-profit as well as private rental and development for sale investors esp. in East Germany. These work programs often included commercial real estate. Inter alia we helped to rebuild the inner city of Berlin, especially the vacant former wall areas around Potsdamer Platz. We also extensively advised the federal Treuhand-Liegenschaftsgesellschaft on property development and sales strategies in the former GDR.

Social housing finance investment reconnaissance work programs were performed also in East Germany, and later with World Bank in Poland (2009), on the TBS system that is unique in having induced a partial revival of non-profit rental housing in a transition country. More recently I worked with CEB on social and affordable housing reconnaissance in Lithuania (2019/20) and in a comprehensive EU-wide study on the same topic covering 26 countries (2020/21).

In 2021 with Roland Berger I managed a global rent-to-own global investment reconnaissance work (global best practice, investment in emerging markets) for the International Finance Corporation covering tenant purchase schemes, residential leasing, bridge finance to mortgage and identifying investment strategies for Colombia, Kenya and Indonesia. These schemes may create a bridge to homeownership for households unable to afford the down-payment in highly priced urban markets, or mortgage rates in overpriced housing finance systems, and are a core toolkit for the ‘affordable housing’ segment.

In all these sector work programs I try whenever possible to pursue a rigorous empirical approach, for which my university specialization in econometrics is helpful. I have analyzed numerous disaggregate financial and housing sector datasets with SPSS and Stata, including building and household micro-census, income/expenditure surveys, access to finance/loan borrower/saver surveys, tenant/homeowner surveys, corporate finance and portfolio data. Three random examples are the empirical analysis of rent control in Cairo with a large dedicated Egyptian household survey in 2006, the financial analysis of several hundred Polish non-profit housing entities (TBS) with a BGK-originated dataset in 2009, and in-depth analysis of housing tenure, burden and quality with SILC for Lithuania in 2019/20. I am also the author of the first nationwide German hedonic house price index for Hypoport AG based on the Europace transaction platform (‘EPX’), with several work programs in the 2010s.

Selected project references housing market / policy / institutions

To be continued

Selected papers and presentations housing market / policy / institutions

“Global Rent-to-Own Platform – FIG Learning Session”, Workshop held at the International Finance Corporation (online), with Roland Berger, February 2022.

“Affordable Housing and Invest Eu Potential – EU-27 (26) Study”, Workshop held at the Council of Europe Development Bank (online), March 2021.

Markteinschätzung: Die Entwicklung des deutschen Wohnimmobilienmarktes in
den vergangenen sechs Monaten.
“, Commentary for Europace Report regarding the housing market impact of the Covid measures, July 2020.

“Targeting and Rental Programs, Homeownership Programs, Social Housing Investments, Housing Policy Design, Social and Affordable Housing Program Design”, Series of six Workshops held at the Ministry of Finance in Lithuania (with Vidas Lekavicius), Vilnius, January / March 2020.

Corporate Social Housing Institutions – Models and Case Studies“, Workshop held at the Ministry of Finance of Lithuania (with Claude Taffin), Vilnius, December 2019.

Integration of Pension and Housing Savings – a Conceptual Discussion“, Paper resulting from consulting activities with National Housing Company of Armenia / Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, March 2019.

Housing Assistance – Institutional and Policy Models for Uzbekistan“, Workshop held at the Asian Development Bank Resident Mission (with Evgenia Zhelezova), Taskhent, December 2017.

House Price Indices and Hypoport’s EPX“, Workshop held at Hypoport SE to the Delegation of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, Berlin, August 2014.

House Price Indices and the Property Market in Germany“, Presentation to the DINAMIC Conference organized by Chambre des Notaires, Paris, December 2012. En francais.

Ein Immobilienpreisindex auf Basis von Kreditdaten von Hypoport – Ergebnisse einer Methodenstudie“, Presentation given at Workshop Real Estate Prices organized by Federal Agency for Construction, Urban Development and Spatial Planning BBSR, January 2009. In German.

Rental Choice and Housing Policy Realignment in Transition“, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3884 (with Ellen Hamilton and Jan Brzeski), April 2006.

The Role of Government in Housing Policy in Transition Countries – Current Practices and Principles“, Presentation given to OECD Working Party on Housing, Paris, 2004.

Selected media work housing market / policy / institutions

To be continued.