How to provide 94,000 housing units in Luxembourg

HOUSING
Tim Harrup

In her interview with paperjam.lu, architect Nora Hammelmann explains first of all that affordable housing has been very much at the top of the agenda for some years. She says that during the walks she has been taking during the Covid confinement, she was able to observe the number of sites which were currently unused. Her idea is to use them for temporary residential accommodation. Asked how much land she is talking about, Nora Hammelmann said that there are 2,850 hectares available which are already destined for housing. The vast majority of this land (89%) is in private hands, with only 11% owned by the public authorities.

According to the architect, some 950 hectares are instantly available within the government’s Baulücken project, which encourages landlords to sell the leasehold of this land while retaining ownership, and whose objective is to bring down house prices for young persons and families. Providing temporary accommodation for persons arriving from abroad is another possible benefit, as is providing housing for seniors looking for the company to be found in a small community.

Flexibility

In concrete terms, the idea is to build flexible modules on this land, composed of prefabricated, and recyclable materials, module which can be combined together. The structures would be 16 m² in size, with the combinations of different units (fitted as bathrooms, kitchens, living spaces…) being possible lengthwise, breadthwise or in height. With this system, adding an extra bedroom for a new member of the family is also possible.

These modules are then positioned on the unused plots of land and rented to occupants for renewable periods of seven and a half years. Nora Hammelmann explains that in a situation where landlords may wish to keep their land for speculative purposes or simply to keep it in the portfolio, her solution allows for this to happen (the landlord retains ownership) but also enables much needed affordable housing to be provided. On top of this, landlords receive financial compensation for the installation of properties on their land, further enhancing the financial element. Also in return for the use of their land, owners may be exempt from new land laws, and they would have the benefit of local communes or even the State itself, acting as the intermediary between themselves and the occupants.

Nora Hammelmann was asked by paperjam about quantities. Her calculations show that within the Baulücken project alone, some 51,000 units of a total of 140 m² should be possible, with 18,000 in the City of Luxembourg, and a total in the Grand Duchy of 94,000 units.