Housing benefit (Wohngeld) is a government contribution towards your housing costs. It is a state subsidy intended for those on low incomes to ensure they can afford suitable housing. Generally, in order to qualify for housing benefit, you cannot be in receipt of any other benefit payments, such as unemployment benefit. Housing benefit comes in two different forms.
Rent support (Mietzuschuss)
Home upkeep support (Lastenzuschuss)
If you have bought your property, you can also apply for housing benefit to support you with the costs of owning a home. This may be of help in covering the costs of your mortgage, or to help you with the upkeep of the house.
Requirements for housing benefit (Wohngeld)
In order to qualify for housing benefit, you need to fulfil the following requirements:
- You live in Germany with a valid residence permit (if applicable).
- You rent an apartment or a room, or you have bought a house or apartment.
- You are registered at the same address.
- Your household’s combined earnings do not exceed the income threshold (see below).
In addition to this, you are not entitled to housing benefits if you are already receiving any of the following:
- Unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) or social benefit (Sozialgeld)
- Injury benefit
- Basic security benefits in old age
- Cost-of-living assistance
Your application may, however, be considered if receiving housing benefit would prevent you from needing support from other benefit schemes.
In order to be eligible for housing benefit, your household’s total monthly income must not exceed the total income ceilings below (for 2022). These limits vary according to the number of people in your household and your rent band (Mietstufe):
|Persons in household
|Rent band I
|Rent band II
|Rent band III
|Rent band IV
|Rent band V
|Rent band VI
How much housing benefit will I get?
Whether you are eligible for housing benefit, as well as the possible amount you would potentially receive, depend on the number of people in your household, the price of your rent or mortgage and your household’s total monthly income.
Housing benefit is usually granted for 12 months at a time and is paid in advance into your German bank account. Once your entitlement period has ended, you will need to reapply. You should do this two months in advance to ensure there is no interruption to your payments.
How to apply for housing benefit
To receive housing benefit, you need to submit an application to your local housing benefit office (Wohngeldbehörde - often a branch of your local citizen's office). You will need to fill out a form and prove your eligibility, usually by providing some of the following documents:
- Registration certificate
- Proof of income (e.g. bank statements)
- Rental contract or mortgage agreement
- Proof of living costs (e.g. utility bills)
Once you have submitted your application, it will be considered by the housing benefit authority. You will receive their written decision in the post, outlining the outcome and their reasons along with any possible prerequisites you may need to fulfil to qualify for future housing benefit payments.
Some housing benefit offices now accept online applications. This is the case, for instance, in Berlin.