Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Urban shrinkage in Leipzig and Halle, the Leipzig-Halle urban region, Germany

by Dieter Rink, Annegret Haase, Matthias Bernt, Thomas Arndt, and Johanna Ludwig 

Leipzig looks back on a long-term period of shrinkage that lasted from the 1960s to the end of the 1990s. The political change after 1989 led to a rapid deindustrialization and breakdown in employment and, as a result, a mass out-migration towards western Germany bringing about a dramatic acceleration of population losses. From 1989-1998, Leipzig lost about 100,000 inhabitants, that is, 20 per cent of its total population. The main reasons for the recent population losses were the (job-related) out-migration to western Germany (starting right after 1990), a state-sponsored and thus artificially initiated suburbanization (that had its peak from the early mid-1990s until 1997), and demographic ageing (decrease in birth rates - a continuous process). The main reason for out-migration was the loss of jobs due to deindustrialization (loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the industrial sector in the early 1990s). In 1999, Leipzig enlarged its administrative territory. In this way the city ceased to lose inhabitants due to these reforms; the reform coincided with the stabilization of the city in terms of population size bringing with it positive migration balances and a vibrant in-migration. After 2000, Leipzig saw a turnaround, that is, a re-growth of the population after decades of shrinkage. Since 2000, Leipzig has had positive migration balances with the hinterland and in general. Research speaks about reurbanization tendencies that are prominent in Leipzig as one of only a few big cities in eastern Germany (see below).
Although the population is no longer decreasing, Leipzig is still today faced with the consequences of urban shrinkage, and will also be faced with them in the future. The consequences are first and foremost housing and commercial vacancies, demolition, oversupply of infrastructure, brownfields and the perforation of the urban grid. Leipzig is characterized by the close neighbourhood of stabilizing and shrinking neighbourhoods in the city. Vacant and/or unused lots, wastelands and new forms of ‘urban wilderness’ exist in many places all over the city. In other words: urban shrinkage continues to play a role within the city, but not all neighbourhoods or districts are affected by it. Moreover, Leipzig will face a new wave of urban shrinkage within the near future: after 2015, household numbers will start to decrease; additionally, the reservoir of current in-migration (age groups 20-40) will decrease due to ageing. Today, Leipzig is not a shrinking city anymore when one only looks at the total population numbers; but urban shrinkage is an important topic for the city (coping with its consequences, dealing with shrinking neighbourhoods within the city) and this will also be true within the near future (new wave of shrinkage due to ageing and decrease in households).
Paunsdorf, Leipzig, Germany, via Google
Since 1990, socio-spatial separation and segregation in the city have advanced and the widespread socio-economic mix of many residential areas has decreased. Like in Halle, segregation has, however, not reached extreme values yet. It is most visible in its socio-economic dimension (income, share of unemployed). Socially weak households are concentrated in different parts of the city, mainly in some traditional old built-up workers’ areas as well as in parts of the prefab district Leipzig-Grünau. In the public debate, Leipzig is often mentioned as a ‘boom town’ or ‘lightening house’ within the eastern German ‘ocean of shrinkage’. The public perception is mainly of the story of stabilization and reurbanization of the city after the losses in the 1990s. Subsequently, it becomes more and more difficult to discuss urban shrinkage although urban planners already know about the processes that will lead to new population losses in a few years.

more about Germany:

Bridges to Utopia? A Sustainable Urban District in Freiburg, Germany

The new district of Freiburg-Rieselfeld: a case study of successful, sustainable urban development

A planned carfree neighborhood: Rieselfeld in Freiburg, Germany

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