LivingSpaces – Instruments for a needs-orientated usage of the housing stock in municipalities

Wohnhäuser mit weißer Fassade vor blauem Himmel (©Martin Debus/Fotolia)

In many municipalities, in particular in rural areas, the population is shrinking. As a result, residential patterns and the demand for living space are changing. Together with the district of Steinfurt, researchers are developing strategies to adapt underused dwellings to the new needs and requirements induced by demographic change.

Research approach

The aim is to more efficiently use detached and semi-detached houses. For single-family houses this might mean the separation of a lodger flat the rent of which could help finance energetic and barrier-free refurbishments. The exchange of apartments is also conceivable if this corresponds with the respective needs of the future users. The district of Steinfurt is project partner. With the support of the association “energieland 2050 e.V.” Steinfurt is currently creating an innovative advisory service offering restructuring consultation and practical help like relocation support in selected municipalities.

In order to develop these new services to suit the requirements of the municipalities, the scientists analyze the particular framework conditions in shrinking as well as growing municipalities of the district. ISOE is investigating the demographic development within the district and will conduct a survey on the residents’ needs and willingness to move. On this basis ISOE aims to design a communication concept to address the local inhabitants.

With the help of an accompanying monitoring and an evaluation, the research network determines success factors and hindrances. Furthermore it assesses the effects of measures on housing satisfaction, land usage, heating energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions. The transferability to other regions will be estimated and the experiences will be discussed with interested municipalities in existing inter-district networks.


In many rural municipalities single-family houses in former developing areas have retained the standard of the 1960s and 1970s and are in need of refurbishment. Due to shrinking household size, living space per capita is increasing. Dwellings that were originally designed for families are now often only used by one or two persons. Many home owners find it too expensive to carry out thermal refurbishment of their buildings, and thus the municipal climate protection goals are getting in danger. In other words, single family homes in need of refurbishment are underused while simultaneously there is a lack of housing space for young families and big households. As a consequence, municipalities are under pressure to open up new housing areas in order to comply with this demand. They have to carry high development costs and urban sprawl with all is ecological disadvantages increases. In the face of a shrinking population, an excess supply of housing areas in the future will thus be created. The research project examines how the existing Housing stock can be upgraded, how it can be used in more efficient ways, and be better adapted to users’ needs.


Stieß, Immanuel/Lukas Sattlegger/Luca Raschewski/Konrad Götz (2022): „Suffizient wohnen in der Nachfamilienphase - Umrisse eines sozial-ökologischen Begrenzungskonzepts". In: Onnen, Corinna (Hg.): Gelegenheitsfenster für nachhaltigen Konsum. Lebenslauf, Biographien und Konsumkorridore. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 157-178

Paar, Angelika (2020): Wohnraummobilisierung - gut für Menschen, Kommune und Klima. Eine Handreichung. Unter Mitarbeit von Lars Brischke, Till Burkhardt, Jutta Deffner, Corinna Fischer, Tanja Kenkmann, Immanuel Stieß. Heidelberg: Ifeu

Fischer, Corinna/Immanuel Stieß (2019): Wider den "verdeckten Leerstand". Bedürfnisgerechte und effiziente Wohnraumnutzung in Einfamilienhäusern. Planerin (6), 21-23

Fischer, Corinna/Immanuel Stieß (2019): Wohnen in der Nachfamilienphase: bedürfnisgerecht und flächensparend. In: Grabener, Astrid (Hg.): Immobilien-Almanach 02. Kiel: Grabener Verlag, 57-77

Fischer, Corinna/Immanuel Stieß (2019): Living spaces: saving energy by encouraging alternative housing options for senior homeowners. eceee Summer Study Proceedings. eceee 2019 Summer Study - Make buildings policies great again Belambra, Presqu'Île de Giens, 3-8 June 2019, 1355-1364

Stieß, Immanuel/Anja Umbach-Daniel/Corinna Fischer (2019): Smart small living? Social innovations for saving energy in senior citizens'households by reducing living space. Energy Policy 133 (110906)

Research and project partners

  • Öko-Institut e.V. (project lead)
  • Landkreis Steinfurt:
    • Bureau for climate protection and sustainability
    • energieland 2050 e.v.
  • under the participation of IFEU – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg


The research project “LivingSpaces – Instruments for a needs-orientated usage of the housing stock in municipalities” is funded as part of the BMBF-funding measure “municipalities innovative”.


2017/03 – 2020/12