BY: JESSICA BUEKER
Berlin has become the first German city to pass rent-control legislation.
According to the Guardian, starting Monday landlords will be prohibited from increasing rents by more than 10 per cent above the local average. The new law will put a stop to some of the fastest rising rents in Europe.
Berlin is pioneering the rent cap, after national parliament approved the law in March. The controls were already in place for existing tenants but have now been extended to new ones as well. “The rent ceiling is very important for Berlin because the difference between the rent paid in existing contracts and new contracts is so high,” said Reiner Wild, managing director of the Berlin Tenants’ Association.
Between 2013 and 2014 rents went up by more than nine per cent. Despite some of the benefits of Berlin’s gentrification, like more fashionable restaurants, the reality is it is difficult to adjust to the rapid rise in rents, especially in a city where wages are low.
Gentrification often includes gutting lower-income residents from the communities they call home. Vanessa Martir – a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, talks about her experiences with gentrification in an article for the Huffington Post, and argues that making something nice and pretty doesn’t always make it better.
“When people speak of the old Brooklyn, the Brooklyn before the organic markets and food co-ops, before there was a trash can on every corner and community gardens — they talk about it like it was all bad, like all there was was poverty and crack and single moms.”
Martir goes on to explain that Brooklyn, despite some faults, was a close knit community. It was also affordable and livable for the low-income families who resided there – people whose wages didn’t go up, when housing prices did.
“When I think of Brooklyn, the first word that comes to mind is home. But my home isn’t today’s Brooklyn,” writes Martir. “Those quaint cafés and yoga studios were not built for me. My Brooklyn isn’t the Brooklyn where a townhouse just hit the market with an asking price of $40 million dollars.”
Berlin’s rent cap is a huge step forward in the eyes of a lot of residents from global cities that are facing steep climbing rent rates. This is especially true of New York where rent prices are 321 per cent higher than in Berlin.
Wild told the Guardian that his organization would like to see more action taken to address the problem, including the building of more affordable housing.
It’s estimated that in the United States 7 million more affordable housing units are needed to meet demand.
Berlin has taken a proactive approach. Although rents are still low compared to other European capitals and North America, it is vital to keep the city affordable for lower-income residents.