userLand Policies in Europe

International reflections on Munich’s land policy

ARL International ARL International
published on 19/10/2023

The ARL International Working Group on Land Policies in Europe meets in Munich

When discussing land policy in Germany, one inevitably cannot avoid the example of Munich. Accordingly, the ARL International Working Group of the ARL “Land Policies in Europe” met in Munich in September 2023 to continue its international reflections on land policies across 12 European countries. The meeting had three major objectives: First, to continue the debate to find a common understanding of land policy; second, to learn about and reflect upon Munich’s land policy; and third, to continue the work on the book “Land Policies in Europe”.

Finding common ground

Land policy is understood differently in different countries. While in some countries land policy is a specific, clearly defined public policy field (such as in Finland), in others, it is merely a term that describes specific strategies by public actors (such as in Switzerland). In some countries, land policy is not used as a specific term and is considered to be the same as spatial planning (e. g. in the UK). In other countries the two terms coexist distinctly (e. g. in the Netherlands). Such differences must be named and understood in order to enable international exchange.

The members of the working group discussed and developed these views based on their respective national definitions in an interactive exercise. The common core here concerns the relationship between planning for public interests and private property. It became clear that such a debate shall be integrated into the book project and also requires a larger debate in the International Academic Association on Planning, Law, and Property Rights (PLPR) involving peers from other countries.


Why Munich?

There are two main reasons why Munich is so important for German land policy: First, Munich has an extreme land market and faces major societal challenges regarding housing and land. Second, as a pioneer with a well-established and ongoing tradition of socially fair land-use model (sozialgerechte Bodennutzung – SoBoN) Munich stands out.  

This was stressed in the opening speech by the Deputy Mayor of the City of Munich, Katrin Habenschaden. She explained the history of the Munich model and made links to the land reform ideas by Hans-Jochen Vogel, who is a former Deputy Mayor of Munich and later Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development. Ms. Habenschaden went into detail about the instruments of land policy that Munich has been using since the 1970s to tackle the housing shortage via land policy. She expressed very clearly that “we have the problem that we are dependent on the Federal Government and especially on the State of Bavaria, which sees itself much more as the guardian of the property of property-owners than as the saviour of those in need” (Habenschaden 2023).

In two presentations by Alexander Lang (Planning Department) and Dr. Raymond Saller (Department for Labor and Economic Development), specific aspects of Munich’s land policy were presented and discussed with the participants from UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Raymond Saller's critical perspective on a planned Apple R&D center, which could potentially create 4,000 jobs, underscores the high significance of the housing issue in Munich. Alexander Lang explained the latest version of Munich’s model of land policy, in which developers choose certain measures based on a point system. They receive points for certain measures that ensure socially fair land use. If enough points are achieved, the development is considered by the planning department. This new scheme allows for more flexibility, Mr. Lang explained.

Complementing these presentations representing the public side, Han Joosten (Head of Urban Development at Bouwfonds Property Development (BPD) Germany) talked about missed opportunities in German land development while reflecting from the perspective of a large real estate developer with experiences from abroad. One of the key messages that received much attention in the discussion was his provocative statement that German planning is largely over-regulated. He claimed to reduce the number of regulations by at least 30 % and plead for a stronger federal harmonisation of rules (instead of state-level regulations). Stephan Reiß-Schmidt then added a perspective from the initiative for socially fair property law (Bündnis Bodenwende) in Germany. He focused on the legislative and constitutional aspects of property regulation in Germany.

Finally, Munichs’ debates on land policy were illustrated in an excursion. The case of the Kreativquartier was used to demonstrate the possibilities offered by public land ownership. Rather than selling the former barracks near the city center for a financial gain, the city retains ownership of the area and provides access to individuals or groups who might not otherwise have an opportunity in a typical market scenario. With this de-commodification, the city enables a playground for ideas (e. g. in the creative industries) prior to reaching a stage of full profitability.

The participants acknowledged how important the explanations and discussions about land policy were. The participants were impressed by the passionate and content-rich opening speech of the Mayor Katrin Habenschaden. It showed the importance of such debates for the city and society. Especially as the deputy mayor had to attend a press conference regarding the Octoberfest on the same day. The working group was deeply impressed by the high level of expertise and great interest in this international exchange

Book project

Reaching the final phase of the working group, efforts are focused on the completion of the two main publications. The special issue in the journal Raumforschung und Raumordnung is almost finished. It will be published in December.

In addition, work is being done on publishing an edited book. The book provides a comparative perspective on land policies. Instead of a comprehensive and exhaustive comparison, it provides qualitative examples of land policy challenges from 12 different countries. It therefore follows a dedicated structure to allow a systematic reflection of the different approaches of land policy. In this way, the book provides students and young academics with a starting point for reflecting on land policy beyond their own horizons. Still, the qualitative approach enables researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to ask the right questions when considering practical challenges or legislative adjustments.

During the meeting in Munich, the draft chapters of this book were discussed in peer-feedback sessions, also testing and improving the general structure and analytical framework of the book project.


Special session PLPR & next steps

Three further activities are planned for next year: First, at the upcoming conference of the International Academic Association on Planning, Law and Property Rights (PLPR, see also www.plpr-association.org), March 18-22, 2024, in Munich, Germany (https://plpr2024.bole.ed.tum.de), the International Working Group of the ARL will organize a special session on Land Policies in Europe. A core group meeting is also planned for April, which will focus intensively on the book’s conclusions. Lastly, a final workshop and a symposium will be held in the summer of 2024 to launch the book and disseminate the findings.


Katharina Künzel

TU Dortmund University, Germany

Tel. +49 231 755 2229



Assoc. Prof. Dr. Andreas Hengstermann

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway

Tel. +47 672 31098



Prof. Dr. Thomas Hartmann

TU Dortmund University, Germany

Tel. +49 231 755 2229