Housing Co-operative Ludwig-Frank, Mannheim,Germany

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
                         March 1996

               Housing Co-operative Ludwig-Frank
                       Mannheim, Germany

               Winner of the  World Habitat Award*

The Housing Co-operative Ludwig-Frank provides an outstanding
and innovative example of how a dilapidated residential area,
housing a multi-cultural population from fifteen different
countries, can be transformed into an attractive and habitable
district through co-operative self-help and solidarity. It
demonstrates that genuine renewal of an area cannot be
achieved simply through technical improvements, but that
social and cultural development is a key aspect of inner city

Situated on valuable land close to the city centre of
Mannheim, two dilapidated housing blocks were due for
demolition in 1990. 100 of the 400 dwelling units were vacant
and uninhabitable. Despite the appalling quality of the
accommodation after twenty years of neglect, a large number of
the remaining occupants strongly resisted the idea of
demolition. They wanted to retain their inexpensive housing
and stay in their homes where they were well established.
Despite burgeoning waiting lists for low cost housing, the
city authorities favoured demolition and rebuilding.

The establishment of a housing co-operative was seen as a way
forward, enabling the residents to gradually improve the
quality of accommodation using the rental income. Against
official expectations, tenants were prepared to participate in
the co-operative by contributing their own financial resources
in the form of buying shares as well as providing other
voluntary services. In November 1991 the dwellings were handed
over to the residents at no charge, together with a DM 5.5
million grant, in respect of the maintenance work not carried
out over the previous twenty years. A year later, the most
important repairs and modernisation works had been completed
at a total cost of DM 33,500 ($19,100) per flat. Financial
self-help has played an important part in the project,
although there has been help from state grants. These grants
have been used to bring forward work that would otherwise have
had to wait. The 533 members of the co-operative have
deposited well over DM 1,000,000  i.e. a credit balance of
approximately DM 2,000 (USD 1,143) per member. Although rent
levels have increased since the modernisation has been carried
out, they have been modest compared to what they would have
been had the blocks been demolished and rebuilt and have been
discussed and agreed with all members of the co-operative.

Extensive improvements were carried out on the dwellings,
particularly with a view to improving their energy efficiency.
Single glazing was replaced with double glazing and roller
shutters and new interior and exterior window sills were
provided. Full heat insulation and cladding completed the
insulation works. Sanitary facilities, including supply and
disposal systems, were replaced and central heating was
provided linked into the municipal district heating system.
Door entry systems, new letter boxes and replacement balconies
helped provide a much improved quality of life for residents. 

Considerable work was also carried out on environmental
improvements in the area, the most spectacular of which being
the removal of 800 tons of asphalt and rubbish by German and
American military engineers to create a new green
environmental area in the centre of the district.

It was accepted by all however that maintenance, modernisation
and administration of the dwellings was not everything. The
human aspect needed also to be considered and priority was
placed upon the provision of a community centre to act as a
focus for social and community activities. This was
particularly the case since there were fifteen different
ethnic groups living in the 400 dwellings. The community
centre was opened at the end of 1991 and has both paid and
volunteer staff helping to provide a range of courses and
training schemes, including language courses for the many
different nationalities housed in the project.
Particular emphasis is placed upon educating the women
residents and in helping the children, both at kindergarten
age and when they first join school, to  overcome the language
barriers and avoid being disadvantaged at an early age.
Homework supervision is provided for 38 children. All services
are provided free of charge to residents. A Sponsorship
Committee is responsible for obtaining donations from local
companies and other organisations, together with the
membership fees which are used to fund these courses and
events. In addition to working in the community centre,
volunteer workers also help to look after the grounds, saving
considerable maintenance costs for the co-op members.
The aspect of the project which is seen as particularly
valuable in the work that is carried out is integrating the
fifteen ethnic groups and helping to awaken understanding and
tolerance in the neighbourhood. The opportunities provided to
share leisure and cultural programmes is seen as crucial in
this process. The project is recognised as a lighthouse
project, both within Germany and beyond, showing the way for
many other cities which are attempting to cope with similar
problems. With increasing numbers of migrants moving around
Europe, the coming years will see increasing need for an
example such as that provided by the Housing Co-op

*The World Habitat Award trophy was presented to Walter Pahl
by the President of the General Assembly of the UN, HE Mr
Samuel Insanally. Dr Pahl received the trophy on behalf of the
Housing Co-operative Ludwig-Frank, Mannheim, Germany.