Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shrinkage and ageing are Europe-wide challenges

29.04.2008
Unlike in Eastern Germany, shrinking numbers of city dwellers in the Czech Republic and Poland did not so far lead to massive numbers of unoccupied properties and demolitions. In East Central Europe, there are other reasons for the presence of empty apartments, e. g. the bad state of repair.

These are the findings of a research project conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), which compares population development in the cities of Brno and Ostrava in the Czech Republic and Gdansk and Lódz in Poland with Leipzig in Eastern Germany.

The researchers found that empty properties in Poland and the Czech Republic were not the result of an oversupply of housing, but rather the result of a real need for redevelopment in districts with old building stock. Since many tenants are not registered or flats are illegally sublet, the official statistics often do not reflect the reality, according to the researchers. At the same time, however, there are some parallels with Germany.

Most importantly, the ageing population needs to be mentioned. This is a topic for both cities and whole countries. In all cities under investigation, the proportion between the younger and the elderly population in recent years changed decisively in favour of the elderly. This has consequences on urban planning and housing policies: flats need to be adapted to the requirements of elderly people, infrastructure demand changes.

From 14 to 16 April, 130 scientists from 15 countries were discussing the impacts of demographic change on European cities at an international conference at the UFZ in Leipzig. Population developments always have impacts on the environment: empty apartments are heated alongside occupied ones, plots of land are not desealed after a demolition. Public transport becomes less efficient in a city with declining residential density. Therefore, declining populations not necessarily result in less environmental impact.

Lódz has lost more than 81,000 inhabitants since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. That is more than one in ten inhabitants for this Polish city. In comparable Czech cities the situation is not that grave but also there the number of inhabitants decreased for quite some years in the 1990s. Ostrava and Brno, for example, have each lost seven per cent of their inhabitants. But there are also some causes that vary widely from one country to another. Whereas in the Polish cities the population is moving to the capital or abroad, Czech city-dwellers tend to move to privately owned homes in the suburbs. This ‘suburbanisation’ is playing a major role in the Czech Republic, as it did in Eastern Germany in the 1990s. It is less significant in Poland, however. The population decreases are just the beginning: since the birth rates in the formerly socialist countries of Eastern Europe are among the lowest in the world, the forecasts are alarming. Poland’s Central Statistical Office estimates that populations in the larger cities alone will fall by between 20 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Changes are taking place in the inner cities as well: in all four of the cities studied the inner-city residential areas have seen significant population decreases between the 1991 and 2001 censuses, as well as already in the decades before. Whereas the total population in Lódz fell by around 10 per cent, the decline in the inner city was as high as 20 per cent, according to official statistics. However, the social scientists believe that these figures should be treated with caution, since inner cities often attract younger people who do not register with the authorities or live as subtenants on a black rental market. In Brno for instance, according to the census the inner-city population supposedly has a higher average age than that of the city as a whole. “But our qualitative studies in Brno showed a significant reduction in the average age of the inner-city population, which was often not reflected in the local register or in the censuses,” the researchers write in their interim report.

However, a general trend can be observed in Poland and the Czech Republic: the number of one-person households is increasing. They now account for between 30 and 35 per cent, and for as many as 40 per cent of households in the inner cities. The proportion of single parents has also increased. By contrast, the proportion of households with more than three people, i.e. the classic family, has fallen steeply since 1990.

After 1989, state-owned housing stock in Poland and the Czech Republic was transferred to the local authorities and gradually privatised. Unlike the prefabricated concrete constructions of the post-war era, however, large numbers of old apartment buildings in the inner cities still belong to the local authorities and are viewed by their long-term tenants, many of whom are living alone in large flats, almost as their own property. By contrast, young families are often unable to find suitable housing, which aggravates the housing shortage. In addition, all four of the cities studied have up-and-coming areas with high-income inhabitants and areas with concentrations of low-income inhabitants.

Demographic change and its consequences for urban development are a Europe-wide phenomenon. In the long term, this phenomenon will have similar consequences for housing market demand and infrastructure utilisation in East Central Europe to those currently being observed in other parts of Europe. The problems facing Eastern Germany today therefore sound a warning for Poland and the Czech Republic over the coming decades, where similar developments are expected in places. Cities need to provide quality of live to an ever ageing, in some places declining population. The experiences made in East Germany might be of interest to our neighbours. At the same time, however, local authorities in Eastern Germany have something to learn from their eastern neighbours. For instance, the greater autonomy enjoyed by the districts in Czech cities is having a positive impact on their development.

The research project ‘Social and spatial consequences of demographic change in East Central European cities’ is part of the funding initiative ‘Unity amidst variety? Intellectual foundations and requirements for an enlarged Europe’ of the Volkswagen Foundation. Using Czech and Polish cities as a basis, the project will study which experiences from the new states of Eastern Germany are transferable and where there are national differences. The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig-Halle (UFZ) is working closely with the Czech and Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Gdansk and the University of London.

Tilo Arnhold | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=16581

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>