Favoured by geography, the people of the Rhineland were preserved from persecution and did not have to flee from the Soviet dictatorship. However, at the Rhine hundreds of thousands of displaced people were looking for a new home. Having been seriously damaged in the war, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen and Cologne grew from 1945 till 1954 by a total of 1.3 million inhabitants. The increase in population of North Rhine-Westphalia from 11.7 (1946) to 13.9 million (1952) meant that living space had to be allocated, which in many places led to total strangers being billeted on old established residents, who refused to put them up.
Housing was assigned to local authorities. In April 1946 these were reorganized to administer themselves, based on the British model. The "Council Constitution" shifted the power structure in favour of elected councillors. The honorary mayors and permanently appointed town clerks were now subject to the decisions of councillors, resulting from free competition between the political parties. Regarded by the British as a means of "reeducating" the Germans as democrats, this parliamentization soon came to influence debates about reconstruction on site.