It can happen. In Berlin. A project developer bought your block of apartments. You either have the choice to move out with some cash or they bully you until you break. One older women came home and found her windows being closed off by bricks.
Berlin lets its tenants virtually unprotected from project developers. The film ‘Die Stadt als Beute’ (The city as loot) gives a shocking impression how Berlin is rapidly being taken over by the international real estate market, leaving its own citizens move to the outskirts of the city.
How Berlin is sold to international investors
It is happening in Berlin. No place in Germany, or perhaps Europe, is home to so many artists, ‘creatives’, actors and other cultural entrepreneurs as Berlin. The numerous museums, (alternative) cinema’s, the urban beaches, clubs and a strong geographical variety in atmosphere and live style, attract people from other parts of Germany, Europe and other continents. Where London had its exiting years in the sixties with the upcoming music industry and pop culture, now Berlin seems the ‘sexy’ and most exiting place to be. Didn’t former mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit say: ‘Berlin is arm aber sexy’?
Many came, with their money. But it is doubtful if the native Berliner benefits from this influx of new money.
Money floods the Berlin real estate market
The constant production of new money by the European Central Bank, under the codename ‘Quantitative Ease’, is one of the many reasons why so much money is seeking a save haven in the real estate market of Berlin. The ECB injects some €60-80 billion per month, for more than 2 years now, into the European financial markets. With the interest rates at a historic low, sometimes below zero, the mountains of money are looking for some output. As Berlin is the next frontier for investors, a wild west of buying, refurbishing and reselling is in progress. Most of the apartments in Berlin are private owned on one hand, and at the same time on the market as rental apartment.
Some over 86% (2009) of the apartments in Berlin are rental apartments, but dropping. No less than 72% of the rental apartments in Berlin is private owned, the rest owned by social building societies. The result is, that 72% is open to the re
al estate market. Compared to other European capitals Berlin is ‘cheap’. Buyers from London somet
imes don’t trust the prices of a Berlin apartment: 1/8 of that of London: ‘Is the apartment radio-active?’, jokes a real estate agent to investors, quoting one of his clients from London in the film ‘Die Stadt als Beute’.
The sociale consequences for the current tenants are dramatic: forced evictions (‚Zwangsräumung’), bullying by project de
velopers to get tenants out, rises in rent for over 50% in 1 year. It is hard to believe that some claim this as ‘the succes of Berlin’.
Alternative Berlin paved the way, unintentionally
Money is no problem for the new ‘Berliners’, changing their London of Munich apartment, for a place in exiting Berlin. The clubs, the restaurants, the city beaches, the raw look of the city. It is all part of a new adventure. A prospect walking at a real estate market event is addressed by a banker: ‘Do you need finance sir?’ The prospect from London smiles ‘no, cash is not a problem, finding the right apartment is.’
What is considered as typical Berlin, all these rough places with Wifi-access (WLAN) and lattes, contributed unintentionally to this development. Most of the people behind this ‘alternative face of Berlin’ promote just the opposite. They want a less capitalistic society, less luxury. And that is just what the buyers from other places in Europe like about Berlin: a alternative lifestyle in a luxury apartment, for ‘little of no money’.
The anger among Berliners is not hard to explain. They feel being sold out and left behind by the governing parties CDU, SPD, but also Die Grünen.
Back to normal?
Berlin is becoming a ‘normal European capital’, according to one real estate agent in the film.
The question is what is ‘normal’? Like London? London is not a bright example of how a ‘city for all’ should function. Nor are Paris of Barcelona. The cities are flooded by too much money and rich people looking for a thrill, pushing hundred of thousands of natives to the edges of the cities.
New laws such as the Mietspiegel and Mitpreisbremse intended to prevent further rise of rents have failed, a recent investigation showed.
With so many rental apartments being private owned, the Berlin tenants are sold out to ‘the European real estate market’. If that is considered as ‘a normal situation’ then Berlin will lose that what it is loved for: a alternative lifestyle, with a lower pressure felt in cities in a rush like London and Paris.
Berlin is changing from ‘arm aber sexy’ to a ‘city for sale’.
Input from foreign money to upgrade the numerous worn down buildings, was needed. But the city should do more to keep Berlin as divers as it is in all parts of the Berlin area.
Some say this current situation is a hype. It will go over, sooner than many think as Berlin will become a ‘normal city’. But with a great lag of industry and employment. The current influx of ‘new Berliners’ are consumers, no producers. The base of the current real estate boom is therefor weak. The rich thrillseekers, are passers by, will move out as soon as Berlin has become ‘normal’. Leaving the city behind with a bursted real estate bubble.