Josefstadt Frankfurt - new city district planned next to A5 freeway - next to Eschborn and Steinbach

Does Frankfurt need a commuter tax?

Housing problems are not taken seriously

You currently read on a weekly basis about rising prices for real estate. Regardless of whether it is for condominiums or if you live for rent: property prices have almost doubled in many areas of the Frankfurt city region. Although a lot is being built, high-priced apartments or micro-apartments are often built.

More and more people are having fears, whether they are affected by a rent increase. Rising real estate prices fuel fears and ensure that gentrification pushes people out of established residential areas. As a cry for help, this leads to campaigns such as Mietentscheid Frankfurt (lit. “Frankfurt rental decision”). Mietentscheid Frankfurt is an interest group which demands that the City of Frankfurt freezes or reduces rents for buildings which are owned by the city.

Blockade by CDU and FDP Parties

At the same time, the Frankfurt planning department under Mike Josef (SPD, social democratic party) tries to create larger living areas at the city border. However, this idea is met with keen resistance in many neighboring communities. This resistance culminated at the end of 2019 when the Regionalversammlung Südhessen (Regional Assembly of South Hesse) rejected the City of Frankfurt‘s plan to build residential areas in their original plans next to the A5 freeway. The Regional Assembly must approve major development measures in its political function.

Newcomers don't have a Lobby

Cities in the outskirts of Frankfurt, led by the CDU (conservative party) and FDP (liberal democratic party) in particular, ensure that the housing market cannot relax. Local politicians from cities like Eschborn and Steinbach are protesting against the development of wasteland in a foreclosing manner, as an increasing nationalism has emerged on a global level in recent years. At the same time, these places boast of their proximity to Frankfurt and the airport.

Local politicians can allow themselves this duplicity, because they only make politics for “their” city dwellers. The needs of newcomers and those from the region looking for housing are not relevant, because they are not voters after all. This blockade policy is not in the sense of a regional and sustainable development philosophy, because it creates borders where there shouldn’t be any borders.

Money Source for Affordable Apartments

But how could Frankfurt react appropriately to this behavior, which many real estate experts viewed with incomprehension? One solution would be to impose a special income tax on commuters from the surrounding area. Such a tax would affect 370,000 commuters to Frankfurt (2019) and could be a significant source of income for the City of Frankfurt.

With this commuter tax, Frankfurt could not only act against massive commuter flows, but maybe also call voters in the surrounding communities to their senses. The money raised would certainly be significant and would then have to be earmarked for the construction of affordable housing.

A commentary by Sebastian Schneider.

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