It was a radical experiment – impose a rent cap on apartments in Berlin so that tenants wouldn’t be priced out of the city by the big money actors moving in. It was challenged in the courts by Members of Parliament – litigation supported by a lobby of institutional landlords. On 15 April 2021, the highest court in Germany struck down the rent cap, ruling that the Berlin state government had exceeded its jurisdiction. It's a devastating ruling for tenants, many of whom now have to pay back rent they had withheld or pay rents they cannot afford. The question is, if city government doesn’t have the power to protect tenants, who does and who will? What role must the national level government play in light of constitutional and international human rights law obligations? This will certainly be a front and centre issue for the upcoming federal election (September 2021).
As anger swells in Berlin in reaction to the court ruling on the rent cap, people take to the streets to demand their right to housing, the Filmmaker and the Advocate are joined by Florian Schmidt, featured in PUSH-The Film and city councillor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg a neighbourhood under a lot of pressure, and Christoph Trautvetter, an independent researcher with the Tax Justice Network of Germany and the lead for the Who Owns the City project. Truatvetter has been working with a research team to map exactly which private equity firms and institutional investors own the 2 million apartments in Berlin — a murky world that is not easy to penetrate. Who Owns the City recently released a report revealing that the usual suspect, private equity behemoth Blackstone, owns 3,000 apartments in the city, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
In a lively and informative conversation, the foursome discusses an even more radical policy now being pursued by tenants and some politicians in Berlin: The Deutsche Wohnen & Co. referendum, which calls for the expropriation of market rent units owned by asset management firms in possession of more than 3,000 units. These units will be expropriated at land values of 10 years ago, and rents set accordingly, causing a major disruption to the market! There is little doubt that Berlin is the epicentre of the push back against the financialization of housing.
For more on Who Owns the City go here!
Produced by WG Film
Recorded & Edited by Mikey Jones
Music by Florencia Di Concilio
Social Media & Support Team - Maja Moberg, Valerie Estrina, Hanna Leander
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