Lörrach: Tenants should leave apartments for refugees - what the city and landlords say about the excitement

It's a row of houses, three floors, five entrances, in need of renovation.

Lörrach: Tenants should leave apartments for refugees - what the city and landlords say about the excitement

It's a row of houses, three floors, five entrances, in need of renovation. Buildings that arose in the post-war housing shortage, of which there are thousands in Germany, are unspectacular. Actually. Because this row of houses has been stirring things up in Lörrach for a few days, at the most south-western tip of Baden-Württemberg on the Swiss border.

The excitement begins when the first photos of a letter from Städtische Wohnbaugesellschaft Lörrach mbh - in short: Wohnbau Lörrach - to the tenants of Wölblinstraße 21 to 29 make the rounds on social networks, dated February 15, 2023. An invitation to the tenants' meeting. And an announcement that has it all: "The city of Lörrach and the district are also obliged to accommodate refugees," it says. According to Wohnbau Lörrach, "our property at Wölblinstrasse 21 to 29" is particularly suitable for this. "For you, this means that we will shortly be terminating the tenancy agreed with you."

Can this really be true? Tenants have to move out of their apartments so that refugees can be accommodated there? A storm of indignation is raging on social networks, and there are also justiciable statements. It turns out that the writing is real. The information that the residents of the apartment building have to move is "correct", said Wohnbau Lörrach tight-lipped on Monday - and referred to the city administration for further information.

The town hall of the district town with its almost 50,000 inhabitants is only about 700 meters away from Wölblinstraße as the crow flies. 17 floors, built in the 1970's, also in need of refurbishment. There one takes a more detailed position on the planned project. Jörg Lutz has been the head of the town hall since 2014 - and as mayor at the same time he is the chairman of the supervisory board of the municipal housing association.

You are "facing great challenges," explains the non-party mayor. "We would like to thank Wohnbau Lörrach for the cooperation and the opportunity to use the residential complex in Wölblinstraße for accommodation". Living space is scarce, also in Lörrach. According to information from the town hall, the city will probably have to accommodate 356 refugees this year, after 638 in the previous year.

Around 100 people could be accommodated in the vacant apartments - the previous tenants should move out by the end of the year. "The apartments help us a lot to provide the people arriving in the city with living space and thus to fulfill our municipal task." Political bodies such as the Environment and Technology Committee and the Main Committee have reportedly approved the plan.

The city administration is trying to calm the spirits in the heated debate. The apartments are "at the end of their life cycle". The demolition and a new building are "planned for the next few years" anyway.

For the around 40 people from Wölbinstraße 21 to 29, it should make a difference whether they have to leave their homes in the "next years" or "soon". However, Wohnbau Lörrach and the city promise to provide them with "promptly more modern and affordable housing options according to their personal situation" and to support them with the move, "logistically and financially". "We (...) will find an individual and good solution for each individual," says housing manager Thomas Nostadt with certainty. "Nobody ends up on the street," he tells the local newspaper "Die Oberbadische". He laments the "political instrumentalization" of the project. Old apartments for refugee accommodation had already been vacated in Lörrach in the past – the residents were happier with their new apartments than with the previous ones.

But the lack of understanding about the decision persists, not only in social networks. "Wohnbau and the city of Lörrach underestimated the explosive nature of the clearance of houses," comments the "Badische Zeitung". "A steep pass for the AfD," says the "Basler Zeitung" from the neighboring Swiss city.

But one thing is clear: every tenant can also legally defend themselves against being evicted – then the court would have to decide. The Baden-Württemberg state chairman of the German Tenants' Association, Rolf Gaßmann, has his doubts that Wohnbau Lörrach would get away with the terminations: "According to tenancy law, the accommodation of refugees is not a reason for termination. A stupid, brazen letter from the housing association, which unfortunately only fueled the mood against refugees heats up," he says of the "Bild" newspaper.

What those affected say about the plans of the city and housing Lörrach will be seen in the coming week. The residents' meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. One asks "urgently for your participation", it says in the invitation.

Sources: Housing Lörrach, City of Lörrach, "Die Oberbadische", "Badische Zeitung", "Basler Zeitung", "Bild-Zeitung"