WBS: Affordable Flats in Germany
Can I rent a state-subsidised flat?
The "Wohnberechtigungsschein" (WBS) is the certificate you require to rent a state-subsidised flat. These flats are cheaper than the local average. The state provides support for the landlords of these flats (for instance when renovations are due) so that the rents remain affordable. It is worth mentioning that obtaining WBS is no guarantee you will find social housing. WBS only allows you to rent a state-subsidised flat if you manage to find one. People without WBS are not allowed to rent social housing.
Here you can learn whether you are eligible for WBS and find out which documents you need for your application.
What do I need to know?
You can apply for WBS if you have limited funds at your disposal for your livelihood, e.g. due to your limited income or because you receive benefits from the Social Welfare Office or Jobcentre. The level of income which can make you eligible for WBS varies from state to state. In principle, as an individual entitled to WBS, you may not have more than €12,000 at your disposal per year. In some federal states, however, you may earn more and still have the right to WBS. Make sure you inquire at your local Housing Office ("Wohnungsamt") about the income limits in your federal state. You can find the Housing Office responsible for you by googling the word "Wohnungsamt" and the name of your district.
The second essential prerequisite for obtaining WBS is a residence permit, which is valid for at least one year- and it also applies to those with student and work visas. In principle, you cannot benefit from WBS if you have a "Duldung" or your asylum procedure is ongoing.
In principle, you have to hand in a copy of the following documents:
- Passport (or ID card) and residence permit
- Marriage certificate if you are married
- Birth certificate if you have children
- Salary statements which prove how much you earn per month or a certificate from the Jobcentre or the Social Welfare Office
- Confirmation of Registration ("polizeiliche Anmeldung")
- Bank statements
The required documents may vary in each state. Therefore, it is best to refer to the application form provided by the Housing Office responsible for you. There you can find a full list of necessary documents you need to submit. You can find the Housing Office responsible by googling the word "Wohnungsamt" and the name of your district.
Please note: If you are uncertain about the required documents, do not worry! You can still submit the application. If anything is missing, the Housing Office will send you a letter with a list of documents you have missed.
WBS enables you to rent a state-subsidised flat. These flats are only available for people who have obtained WBS. You can spot WBS flats on rental websites by looking for phrases like "nur mit WBS" or "nur für Personen mit einem WBS".
"WBS flats" may not exceed a specific size. For a single individual, the flat may not be larger than 45 square meters. For each additional person, 15 more square meters are permitted. Generally speaking, the number of rooms in the flat must equal the number of people who live there. So if your family consists of 5 people, you are allowed to rent a 5-room WBS flat. Kitchen and bath are each usually counted as a room. The kitchen, however, may not be a separated room if you are a single person who is eligible for a one-room WBS flat (i.e. a studio).
Please note: Sometimes, it is possible for several (unrelated) people who hold WBS to move in together as flatmates. For instance, four people who have WBS can rent a four-room WBS flat together. In principle, however, your "flatmates" in a WBS flat must be your family members.
You should apply in writing to your local Housing Office ("Wohnungsamt"). If you live in a small town or village, the Housing Office is often the same place where you have done your registration ("polizeiliche Anmeldung"). You need to fill out an application form, which is usually available for download on the website of the Housing Office. Submit the filled application form along with the required documents to the Housing Office per mail, e-mail or in person. If you choose to go to the office in person, you can ask the staff to briefly look at your documents and let you know if anything is missing. If all goes well, you will receive your WBS after two to six weeks.
In many states, you can apply for WBS free of charge. In some federal states, however, the processing can cost €5 to €40. Please note: If that is the case, you have to pay the fees even if your application is rejected later.
A WBS document is valid for a year. At the end of the year, you can apply again. Keep in mind that the WBS document you have obtained is only valid in the federal state it is issued. If you are planning to move to another state, make sure you contact the Housing Office („Wohnungsamt“) responsible for you.
If you have problems applying for WBS or would like some advice ahead, you can contact a counselling centre. You can find a counselling centre nearby on bamf.de or jugendmigrationsdienst.de.
Even if you are not eligible for WBS, you can apply for housing benefits ("Wohngeld") at the responsible Housing Benefit Office ("Wohngeldamt"). Housing benefits are provided for people who do not earn much. Keep in mind that those who receive benefits from the Jobcentre or Social Welfare Office are not eligible for housing benefits. On wohngeld.org, you will find the housing benefits application form appropriate for your state. You can locate the responsible Housing Benefit Office by googling the word "Wohngeldamt" and the name of your district.