Horror news for many in the large housing estate An der Kappe in Spandau: The listed real estate group Deutsche Wohnen, which owns the district, has announced rent increases due to modernization work. A total of 203 apartments are affected. One of the letters, which is available to the Tagesspiegel, estimates a price jump from 263 to 346 euros for a 41 square meter apartment – an increase of 31 percent.
Marcel Eupen, head of the Alternative Tenant and Consumer Protection Association, criticizes this sharply: “Due to the modernization, many tenants will find it difficult to afford their apartment and are threatened with displacement.” High inflation is a particular problem for people on site. Most of them have low or middle incomes.
In addition, a refurbishment of the remaining large settlement – which includes a total of 1139 residential units – is not unlikely. Significantly more tenants than at present would then be affected by the increases.
“The upcoming first construction phase affects 203 apartments,” said company spokesman for Deutsche Wohnen, Mario Rosteck, on request. Further construction phases are being planned, but due to the market situation in the trades it cannot be reliably predicted whether and when these will be implemented. Until 2004, the Spandau housing estate belonged to the state-owned Gewobag, then went to the Amsterdam Draaipunt Holding. In 2016 it was taken over by Deutsche Wohnen, which has its headquarters in Berlin.
Marcel Eupen meanwhile demands that the district politicians intervene immediately in order to prevent the drastic increases. He refers to agreements that have been made in the past between district administrations and the real estate industry. In 2018, the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg negotiated a limit on the modernization levy of €1.79 per square meter for the renovation of the Otto Suhr housing estate on Moritzplatz, which also belongs to Deutsche Wohnen.
In the example of the 41 square meter apartment in Spandau, however, this would still result in a rent increase of €72.38 – just ten euros less than announced by Deutsche Wohnen. A real relief? For Eupen, the cases are not comparable. This is due to the fact that the modernization levy has meanwhile been reduced nationwide from eleven to eight percent. This must also be included in the current negotiations: “Our goal is to cap rent increases to €1.00 per square meter and to exclude further increases for six years after the renovation”.
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It looks like movement is now also coming into play on the part of the district office. After the responsibility was initially unclear – city councilor Thorsten Schatz (CDU) referred to the SPD-led department for social affairs and civil services and its district councilor Georg Kempert – concrete announcements are now coming from there.
In the coming week, they want to examine legally and administratively what is possible, and also incorporate the experiences of the other Berlin districts, says Kempert on the current procedure. “Rent increases of up to a third are not justifiable in the current situation,” the SPD politician continued. The aim is to enter into a constructive discussion with Deutsche Wohnen, in which the district mayor, Dr. Carola Brückner (SPD) would switch on. Deutsche Wohnen is open about this. “Of course we are ready to enter into a dialogue with the district office,” says the group.
He justifies the modernization work on the Spandau housing estate with an “improvement in the district’s climate balance”. “Increasing energy costs cannot be an argument for forgoing measures to reduce energy requirements – quite the opposite,” says company spokesman Marko Rosteck about the planned work.
The announced refurbishment includes, among other things, the installation of thermal insulation on the outer walls, the replacement of windows in stairwells and apartments with new plastic thermal insulation windows as well as a large number of repair work, such as the renewal of the balconies.
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According to Deutsche Wohnen, the modernization levy for households with low and middle incomes will be reduced or eliminated entirely. “This means that the rent for some of the tenants will remain unchanged despite significant improvements in terms of living quality and energy consumption,” says Rosteck.
In the event of lower ancillary costs, as can be expected after modernization, it could even decrease. However, such hardship regulations are associated with tenants disclosing their income situation to the real estate group – which experience has shown that many are not willing to do, despite their low income.