By Greater Manchester Housing Action
On the 15th April an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Berlin renters took to the streets to protest against the Federal Constitutional Courts decision to void Berlin’s attempt to stop rising rents and community displacement.
The ruling was a sad day for those carving out the dialogue and fight for rent controls in cities in the UK. The response in Berlin from the left and the housing movement provides hope, and the importance of multi-faceted solutions to tackle housing inequality.
The below statement in response to the rent cap ruling from DIE LINKE (left party) outlines what comes next after the voiding of rent controls.
A Bitter Setback for Tenants - Federal Government Must Act
Members of the Bundestag from the CDU (conservative party) and FDP (liberal party) have filed a lawsuit against Berlin's rent cap (rent freeze, limitation on new rentals and reduction of overpriced rents) before the Federal Constitutional Court. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on the 15th April and announced that the State of Berlin does not have the necessary legal competence in the area of housing and that the Berlin rent cap is therefore invalid.
- Initial Situation
The rent cap was an act of self-defence against Berlin's rent madness. We broke new legal ground and had good reasons for doing so. In view of the situation of many Berliners and their fear of displacement, we simply could not afford not to try.
- On the Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court
We note the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court with great regret. For Berlin tenants, but also for the federal states as a whole, the decision is a bitter setback. This is because the Constitutional Court has thus ruled that the possibility of limiting rents does not fall under the state's competence for housing.
Berlin is the hotspot on the rental market nationwide; nowhere else have rents exploded so much in recent years. For years, the federal government of the CDU (conservative party) and SPD (social democrats) has refused to react seriously to the rapidly increasing rents. The national federal rent brake (Mietpreisbremse) does not provide adequate protection for tenants against exorbitant rent increases and displacement.
The fact that the Federal Constitutional Court has also ruled that it is null and void and that, contrary to the summary court decision, tenants will now have to make repayments is completely incomprehensible against the background of the principle of the welfare state. We will work to ensure that the state of Berlin supports particularly low income tenants in making back payments.
- Perspectives and Options for Action
We do not see the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court as a call to sit back and relax. We will continue to look for creative ways and exhaust all legal options to curb rents in Berlin. We will continue to work to expand the stock of public and public-interest housing through re-municipalization of as many apartments as possible, "milieu protection" (an instrument to protect local neighbourhoods from gentrification) and building of affordable new housing.
A part of the city's housing movement has set out on the path to socialize and expropriate back the large real estate corporations in Berlin by means of a referendum ("Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen", find more on the initiative here). There is no reason for us to slacken in all these efforts for an affordable Berlin for all. The direction of our rent policy will not change by a millimetre as a result of the ruling from the Federal Constitutional Court.
At the Federal Level
With the Berlin rent cap, we have shown that rising rents are not a law of nature. Politics can intervene in the market and regulate it instead of capitulating to it. However, it is now clear that this must and can be regulated at the federal level. The CDU and SPD must now finally act. A social tenancy law at the federal level fails again and again because of the politics of the CDU. The fact that the CDU prefers to make deals with the real estate lobby instead of standing up for tenants is also shown by the generous donations from the real estate industry to the Berlin CDU.
With the rent cap, DIE LINKE has taken a path that is unique in the Germany and has opposed the profit madness in housing. But the ruling from Federal Constitutional Court says: the state of Berlin may not enact such a regulation, but the federal government could if it wanted to. In the general election in September, therefore, this ruling will also determine whether or not a nationwide rent cap will be introduced in fall.
For us it is therefore clear: for a social tenancy law, a nationwide rent cap or an opening clause that allows the states to limit rents, we need a consistent change of policy in the federal government and a strong LEFT party.
This is a translation from the Statement from the Berlin section of the left Party (DIE LINKE) in response to the rent cap ruling.
Special thanks for edits & translation from Die Linke Berlin Board Member - Moritz Warnke.
Last year we published a piece exploring the Berlin rent controls in depth. You can read that here.
4 May 2021