Berlin snaps up 670 flats to help ease housing tensions

by AFP / pic by AFP

GERMANY • The city of Berlin is snapping up 670 apartments in a prime location from a private owner in a bid to ease mounting housing tensions in Germany’s capital.

Spiralling rent costs have become an issue for people seeking affordable housing in Berlin and in some areas rents have doubled in the last 10 years, piling pressure on the housing market.

No purchase price was announced.

Last month, Berlin’s city-state government moved to freeze rents for five years from 2020 in a bid to halt runaway gentrification.

“Berlin must regain more control over its rental market. These 670 apartments are a first step in this direction,” said Berlin mayor Michael Mueller in a statement after a deal was agreed last Friday.

The apartments, up for sale by property-management firm Predac, are along Karl Marx Allee, built as an elegant thoroughfare through then-communist East Berlin.

Since late last year, local residents have been protesting against the selling of the flats in five huge apartment blocks to the real-estate group Deutsche Wohnen SE (DW).

Fearing rent hikes, protest marches were organised by tenants, who hung banners from nearby apartment windows, urging the city government to block the sale.

After discussions between Mueller and DW, the flats will now be bought by state-owned housing association GEWOBAG Wohnungsbau-AG Berlin.

“I want Berliners to continue to be able to afford housing in the city — housing is a central social issue in almost all major cities,” added Mueller.

“Therefore it was, and is, my intention to buy flats wherever possible.” — AFP