Rents berlin: how the new senate wants to slow the rise in rents

Senate wants to maintain rents in Berlin for at least five years

The red-green-red Senate wants to tackle housing shortages and the continued unchecked rise in rents (symbol image).

Photo: dpa

The Senate wants to boost the construction of new apartments in Berlin and thus prevent rents from continuing to rise as steeply as before.

Berlin. This Friday morning, in addition to representatives of the municipal housing companies, employees of the large private companies Vonovia, Adler Group or Heimstaden are expected in the ballroom of the Red City Hall. They thus follow the invitation of the Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD), who wants to forge an "Alliance for new housing construction and affordable housing" with them. Building and Urban Development Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD) believes it is realistic to agree with the housing industry on a voluntary rent freeze for several years. In return, the real estate sector is to benefit from facilitations in new construction.

"Of course, developers have an interest in getting fast building permits and planning rights," Geisel said. The "Alliance for Housing and Affordable Housing" agreed in the coalition agreement is to work out a binding agreement by the end of June on how to achieve both goals. In addition to the large private and municipal housing companies and the relevant Senate administrations, four district offices, the Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Companies BBU, the Federal Association of Free Housing Companies B , cooperatives, the tenants’ association, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and trade unions are also represented.

Morgenpost by Christine Richter

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  • Also read the commentary:Whether the housing alliance will work in Berlin remains to be proven

Rent increases on a par with the inflation rate would be possible

Geisel formulated the goal as follows: "We want to form a broad alliance, because we can only solve the central social issue of affordable housing by working together."In doing so, the Senate wants to promote the new construction of 20.Reach 000 apartments per year and slow the rise in rents. "It is indeed the case that we are looking at a medium period for a voluntary rent freeze. The state’s interest is at least five years," Geisel said. He believes it is realistic for the housing industry to get involved "if Berlin also meets the demands made on us". However, he also clearly formulated that rents can not be frozen at the current level for several years. "What is clear is that the inflation rate must be presented safely, anything else would be unworldly," said the SPD politician. In fact, the rent freeze envisaged by Geisel would thus permit further rent increases. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the inflation rate in 2021 was 3.1 percent; for 2022, the Bundesbank expects an inflation rate as high as 3.6 percent.

Geisel’s spokesman, Martin Pallgen, pointed out that the law, which the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on 25. March 2021 toppled rent cap law a right to increase at the rate of inflation from 1. January 2022. However, this was limited to a maximum of 1.3 percent even with higher inflation. It is still open whether the alliance partners agree on a corresponding formula.

80 percent of building land in Berlin in private ownership

It was clear that it could not go on in such a way as before, stressed Geisel further. "If you look at the statistics of building permits, you have an increase until 2016 and then a drop off. And the number of completions is also going down in the meantime," Geisel said. "At the same time, we have significantly rising construction prices and further increasing land prices. The pressure on the housing market in Berlin is still there and still increasing."

Therefore, affordable housing would have to be built everywhere in the city. "To do this, we have to use state-owned land, but also private land," said Geisel. 80 percent of building land in Berlin is privately owned.

For their part, the housing companies also have high expectations of the alliance. "The Senate’s target for new construction, that per year 20.000 new apartments are to be completed per year, is correct and important," said Maren Kern, head of the Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Companies (BBU). In the view of the BBU, more affordable new construction would require faster planning, approval and construction site set-up procedures, sufficient supply of affordable building land, consistent digital strengthening of public administration in the state and districts, growth-oriented expansion of transport and social infrastructure – as well as refraining from further tightening of the Berlin building code.

Berlin tenants’ association: New building does not solve the housing problem

The Berlin Senate’s planned "Alliance for New Housing Construction and Affordable Housing," which will meet for the first time this Friday in the Red City Hall, will not be able to solve the problems in the housing market, according to the Berlin Tenants’ Association (BMV).

"The central thesis of the alliance is that we will achieve a balanced rental market through the expansion of new housing construction," said the managing director of BMV, Reiner Wild, on Thursday. However, this is not correct, as a short study by the tenants’ association shows. In particular the desired orientation at the Hamburg alliance model is a mistake, so Wild further.

"New construction-fixated view does not help"

"The one-sided view of Hamburg’s housing policy in terms of new construction does not help us here in Berlin, if only because of the more difficult social situation," Reiner Wild continued.

The Hamburg alliance has annually 10.000 new apartments as a goal, aiming for a one-third mix of owner-occupied, rented and social housing. Berlin wants with the help of the alliance from administration, building and private as well as local housing industry as well as cooperatives the new building of 20.000 dwellings per year to achieve, in order to brake the rent increase.

Since the initial situation on the Berlin housing market is completely different from that in Hamburg, the recipes that the Hanseatic city has been using since 2011 to combat the lack of affordable housing cannot simply be transferred to Berlin ten years later, said Wild.

The capital cannot afford the one-third mix according to the "watering can principle": Berlin no longer promoted the construction of social housing between 2002 and 2014, which is why the loss of housing for people with low incomes is enormous due to the elimination of occupancy commitments.

Shortage of affordable housing remains high

The need-based construction of housing for broad segments of the population is also important, Wild continued. The housing market comparison between Berlin and Hamburg shows, however, that despite many new buildings in Berlin and Hamburg there are still too few apartments at low and medium rents. "The increase in population and households from 2010 to 2020 exceeded the increase in residential space in most major German cities, mostly significantly."

How many of these apartments were missing in the cities was unclear. The lack would be however quantified on several thousand to ten thousand dwellings in Berlin and in Hamburg. The number of inexpensive apartments lost in Berlin, also due to increased rents when re-letting, is estimated in the study at 70.000 to 90.000 estimated.

Focus should be on stronger tenant protection

"We therefore call for a focus on strengthening tenant protection," Wild continued. The tenant association is a member of the alliance. Above all, the loss of affordable housing due to high rents when re-letting but also partly due to modernization, by conversion into property must be stopped.

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