Can Renters Survive Without Commodified Housing? Berlin Aims To Find Out

A view of Berlin, Germany over the roofs of many apartment buildings
Berlin photo by William Helsen is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Berlin, Germany: a city of 3.5 million people with nearly 3 million renters.

The vast majority, 85%, of Berlin’s citizens are renters. These days, rising rents are squeezing the life out of them. So Berlin is looking to impose a rent freeze for five years beginning in the spring.

Investment oriented news outlets predictably predict doom. ‘Berlin Foundations Shake’ cries Britain’s (paywalled) Financial Times: Berlin Rent Freeze Shakes Foundations Of City’s Construction Sector

The Financial Times tells us (no surprise) that economists, conservative politicians, and the housing industry all have their knickers in a twist. An un-devastating climate for renters will apparently have a devastating effect on Berlin’s investment climate. Such a shame there can’t be one without the other!

Berlin’s housing minister, Katrin Lompscher, has issued the challenge. “We need solutions,” she says.

Take your pick:

. . . More of the same, only more of it (and by the way, kill all those restrictive building regs). This offer from the housing and finance industries would self-evidently be the cause of Berlin’s crisis in the first place. In spite of that, it’s a frequent housing industry theme world-wide these days. An earlier article from Politico generalizes beyond housing to all aspects of life where Germany stands accused of being the quintessential nanny state, rather than a swashbuckling pirate haven:  Germany Edges Towards Deregulation

. . . Or, lefty-righty diatribes poisoned with shudder-inducing epithets such as ‘socialism’ and eye-rolling ‘lefties will have to learn all over again’ thought that drains all the construction out of the constructive criticism. Try some here at aptly named Grizzle: Germany’s Swing To The Left Could Result In Greater Fiscal Union

All of which seems at the moment to have left Berlin with little useful option beyond government intervention. Read more in The Local: Berlin Rent Freeze: 340,000 Tenants ‘Paying Too Much’ For Housing

And by the way, Germany’s Berlin is not the only city in the country facing a rental price crisis. Those unprepared to swing a Berlin-style hammer are not optimistic about the coming year. Also in The Local: Bad News: Why Rents In Germany Will Continue To Rise In 2020