Rent policy is not going well for the Berlin Senate. First the rent cap failed, then the new construction targets, which are now considered unrealistic, and now there is a new construction alliance characterized by rejections. The state-owned housing companies and the cooperatives provide a haven of peace in the otherwise highly competitive housing market. However, the 580,000 apartments provided by the two only correspond to around a third of all apartments.
This is recorded in the annual report of the Berlin housing promotion, which the Senator for Urban Development Andreas Geisel (SPD) presented on Thursday. According to this, the average cold rent in the state-owned portfolio was 6.29 euros per square meter and thus remained unchanged compared to 2020. Citywide, this average rent is nine percent below the local comparable rent of 6.79 euros per square meter.
According to Geisel, 36 percent of all state-owned apartments have a rent of between five and six euros, 38 percent a rent of between six and seven euros. Only the approximately 240,000 apartments owned by cooperatives in Berlin are cheaper. According to Geisel, their average rent is 5.75 euros per square meter.
The price difference between state-owned and private companies in new rentals is significantly larger than in the case of existing rents. The state companies charge an average of 7.25 euros per square meter, the Berlin-wide average is 10.55 euros. The Berlin companies would do justice to their role of “intervening and stabilizing the rental market in a calming manner”, explained Geisel.
He conceded that there were “significant outliers in the private sector” especially when it came to new rentals. In order to prevent these price increases, which are prohibited by the nationwide rental price brake, the Senate is currently considering expanding the role of housing promotion, explained Geisel.
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Together with Finance Senator Daniel Wesener (Greens), he is in the process of developing a concept according to which housing promotion can also carry out control tasks in the future, explained Geisel. In the course of this, the two board positions, which are currently only provisionally filled, should also be filled.
One consequence of the stable and comparatively low rents in the portfolio of the state-owned housing companies: the tenants are attached to their apartments. A total of only 21,140 households were able to find an apartment with the six companies in 2021. 9622 existing apartments could be rented to people with a housing entitlement certificate (WBS).
The companies thus met the agreed share of 63 percent in the case of re-letting by a hair’s breadth, but the value was not met in the case of new rentals. 2529 of the 5755 new apartments and thus 44 instead of the agreed 50 percent of the new apartments were rented to WBS beneficiaries. The striking lack of affordable housing for people with low incomes cannot be remedied in this way.
[More on the subject on Tagesspiegel Plus: Rising rents, fewer advertisements. In Berlin the supply of new apartments is shrinking – unlike in the federal government]
In addition, tenants only exchanged their apartments in 1,200 cases. “That does not fulfill the potential that we all hope for together,” said Geisel, calling for more new construction despite the importance of tenant protection and stability. In summary, he explained: “The state-owned housing companies are living up to their socio-political responsibility and are our partners in the fight for a stable housing and rental market.”
Katrin Schmidberger, spokeswoman for the Greens parliamentary group on housing and rents, praised the state-owned housing companies for having a “rent price dampening effect” for the entire city. Schmidberger demanded that this must also be reflected in the new cooperation agreement that the Senate and state companies will soon be negotiating.
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Colleague Niklas Schenker (left) described the Berlin companies as “the backbone of the social housing supply”. He emphasized the importance of the agreed re-letting rate of 63 percent to WBS beneficiaries and warned that there was a big difference between the number of people who were entitled to WBS and the apartments available for them – and that an increase in the quota is necessary.
Björn Jotzo, spokesman for urban development and rents for the FDP parliamentary group, said the report revealed a “disaster”. He called for “quick and large-scale planning law for housing construction” to be provided, the building code to be reformed, the building administration to be strengthened and the planning law to be updated.