Rent Rises in Berlin
The recent rent rises in Berlin have caused thousands to take to the streets in protest this past weekend.
Protestors and activists have been campaigning and petitioning for local government to take back control of property from private landlords who have been steadily rising the price of rent for many years. It is estimated that in the past decade the private landlords have nearly doubled the price of housing costs.
The petition that Berliners are putting forward calls for the local government to seize and take back property owned by landlords with more than 3,000 apartments. Deutsche Wohnen is one of the largest private companies that have property in Berlin and it is estimated they have up to 115,000 properties. “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co” is the apt name, which translates to take possession of the company, of the campaign.
Thomas McGath, a spokesperson for the group that had organised the campaign for the local government to seize property back said: "These are companies that are coming in and seeing a really profitable market, it's not your normal mom and pop landlord." This is a key point for those campaigning to get more property in Berlin under public ownership, the current situation has allowed private landlords and companies to see renting the property as solely a profit and money making exercise and not providing good quality affordable homes to people.
The German constitution does allow for public ownership and in fact, this is a step that could be taken to alleviate the rising problem for Berliners and rising rent costs. In it, Article 15 of the Constitution states that: "land, natural resources and means of production may, for the purpose of nationalisation, be transferred to public ownership.” In taking the step to bring back many properties under public and local government ownership, this would be a massive move and effectively enshrine housing and affordable housing as a right to all.
The issue of affordable and good housing is not limited to Berlin and not even to Germany, in fact across the world having secure, good quality living conditions is something that many people see as key to addressing inequality and opportunity for all. The private companies that often take over an areas property and rental market are mostly driven by profit and not affordability for local residents, which can lead to the further effects of housing shortages and gentrification.
If the campaign by Berliners gets enough signatures on its petition the city’s local government will be required to put forward an acceptable proposal and if this is not accepted by the campaigners, they will need another 170,000 signatures for a referendum on the issue.