On October 3rd 1990, the five federal states of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) according to the unification treaty (Einigungsvertrag).
When – after a peaceful revolution in the former GDR – the German wall came down in November 1989 – two German states existed next to each other:
the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) led by a so-called social market economy
the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with a socialist planned economy.
In contrast to other East European countries that were also undergoing dramatic changes, the former GDR joined an already existing political system. All of a sudden, its citizens were confronted with severe political, economic, as well as social changes.
The so-called “Wende” marked a radical upheaval in the development of cities in East Germany. Instead of a planned economy, the market dominated evolution. Which meant that not a central authority made decisions on new developments. But private construction companies set the pace. Instead of general rights of disposal, planning had to follow private property regulations. Therefore, the road from a “socialist to a capitalist city” was marked by difficulties which resulted from, amongst other things, completely different pre-conditions.
Since 1990 urban development in east Germany has been influenced by the continuing de-economization, combined with high unemployment rates, a great amount of labour-orientated migration from East to West and a natural population decline in the total population of most cities.
During the last few years we have on the one hand, a growing surplus of dwellings, and on the other, an enormous and growing amount of disused dwellings, even in recently renovated buildings. This has become the most obvious and problem-loaded indicator of urban decline at the local level in east Germany.
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