German home building permits plunge as industry calls for stimulus

FILE PHOTO: Fernsehturm television tower is seen near residential apartment blocks in Berlin

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Building permits for apartments in Germany fell 31.5% in July from a year earlier, the statistics office disclosed on Monday, highlighting a slump in demand plaguing the construction and real estate industry.

The nosedive in permits comes amid calls from firms for stimulus from Berlin to support the industry ahead of a meeting next week with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The statistics office attributed the decline in demand to high building costs and difficulties in getting financing, factors that have deepened stress across the broader sector.

Authorities granted permits for the building of 21,000 apartments in July, 9,600 fewer than a year earlier. Permits were down 28% for the first seven months of the year.

Germany aims to build 400,000 apartments a year, but has struggled to meet the goal.

For years, low interest rates fuelled a global boom, igniting interest in German property, seen as safe and stable as the country. A sharp rise in rates put an end to the run, tipping a string of developers into insolvency as deals froze and prices fell.

Tim-Oliver Mueller, head of the German Construction Industry Federation, is pushing for an emergency package of measures from the government that includes a cut in property sales tax and expansion of a low-interest rate credit program to support new residential building.

"The free fall in housing permits continues unabated. If the federal government does not decisively turn the tide at next week's housing summit... the housing shortage in Germany will be cemented," he said in a statement.

Declines for single-family and two-family homes during the first seven months of the year were even sharper, down 37% and 53% from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Rene Wagner; editing by Matthias Williams and Toby Chopra)