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In Berlin, a Grass-Roots Fight Against Gentrification as Rents Soar

Amid so much grass-roots resistance, there are concerns that all of this new regulation will create an undue burden on property owners and frighten away potential investors.

“These measures lead to a significant restriction of property investment,” said Carsten Brückner, chairman of the German homeowners’ association Haus & Grund. “Everyone has the right to live everywhere. That this possibility is also dependent on the economic performance of the individual should not surprise us.”

The rent caps and milieuschutz laws, he added, combine to make modernization difficult, if not impossible, leading to “deterioration of the property portfolio.”

Yet there are also concerns that the booming property market is not sustainable. Recent figures released by the German Property Federation show that purchase prices on residential real estate in Berlin grew by 94 percent from 2010 to 2016, while rents increased by only 40 percent. This gap seems to be widening, the report says, “which generally raises concern for a real estate bubble.”

Johannes Novy, a prominent German urbanist, said Berlin’s affordability, mixed social makeup and spirit of experimentation “are what made it attractive to begin with.” The recent regulation and grass-roots organizing are positive steps, he said, “but many of these measures have come far too late, and at this point it’s very difficult to stem the tide.”

What is at stake in the current debate, many say, is the very heart of the city.

“In a typical capitalist city, gentrification and pricing out is normal,” said David Schuster, one of the organizers of the Kreuzberg protest, which ended up drawing more than 1,000 people, far more than expected. “But that’s not what we want.”

Manuel Kony, a 28-year-old sales manager watching the demonstration from the side of the street, said balance should be the goal. “I think you have to find an equilibrium, where people can find reasonable rental prices, but the city is still allowed to develop further,” he said.

“Otherwise, you end up with a kind of banlieue situation,” he added, referring to the crime-ridden exurban districts that have garnered so many headlines in France. “Do we really want what happened in Paris?”

Source: NYT > World

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