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Berliners strip naked to protest rising rents

Published: 03 Dec 2010 09:26 GMT+01:00

Clothes off, cartoon masks and music on. The 10 or so young Berliners get naked in seconds, dancing around at a flat viewing in an unusual form of protest at quickly rising rent rates in their city.

Bopping around in the buff in the living room of this apartment in the formerly communist East Berlin district of Friedrichshain, the demonstrators quickly drew the ire of the estate agent conducting the viewing.

"Get out! I'm calling the police," he screamed, trying in vain to grab one of the naked dancers as techno music boomed.

On this cold Berlin winter's day, with the mercury well below zero, the "Hedonist International" organisation has decided to bring its special brand of protest to this flat, which they deem too expensive.

Sixty-three metres square (678 square feet), "completely renovated with cherry-wood flooring throughout, high ceilings, and a top-of-the-line, kitchen" according to the agent's blurb. The asking price is €726.08 per month, heating included.

Too much, says Nick, one of the main organisers of the protest, who spoke under an assumed name.

"Rents have risen by 50 percent in this area in the last few years," he said. "I had to wait for six months to find an apartment. For people with families, it's even harder," said the 28-year-old student.

In certain trendy parts of Berlin, the demand for housing has exploded - the district of Friedrichshain being a prime example.

Formerly a working-class district deep in East Berlin, the area has undergone a rapid process of gentrification, transformed from a hang-out of squatters and punks to a haven for hipsters and buggy-pushing young couples.

"We started this summer," said another demonstrator, who gave his name as "Luther Blissett."

He said the activists had taken inspiration from the French group "Black Thursday" which organises similar protests at ballooning prices in Paris.

"But our unique selling point is that we are naked," he quipped.

In Berlin, rental prices are considerably lower than in other major European capitals such as London or Paris and much cheaper than in New York, Tokyo or Mumbai.

A building boom that took place after the fall of the Berlin Wall 21 years ago left supply hugely outstripping demand and lower living standards in the former communist east also kept a lid on prices.

But all this is changing, said Empirica, a housing consultancy, which cited a 14-percent rise in rents in just the past year.

"It's young and mobile households that are particularly affected," said one of the firm's experts, Reiner Braun.

"Students looking for a first-time place, young families searching for a larger apartment and those forced to move for professional reasons" are being hit by rising prices, Braun said.

Meanwhile, back in Friedrichshain, the agent has made good on his threat and two police vans and three patrol cars, sirens wailing, screech to a halt outside the apartment.

The hedonists had already gotten dressed and fled, hastily zipping up flies and reclipping bras.

"What we're doing is not a crime," said Nick. "These are public viewings and we are not entering the apartments by force."

The agent, livid, refused to respond to questions. "No comment. No pictures. Out!" he said.

Another young man who came to view the apartment was also unimpressed with the protest.

"I don't go to an apartment viewing to see cocks," he harrumphed.

For now, the protests have called a halt to their unique brand of demonstrating. Have they lost their motivation?

"Oh no," said Peter, one of the members. "But it's winter now. It's getting a little bit chilly to be getting naked."

Hedonistische Wohnungsbesichtigungs-Rallye 26.09. Berlin-Kreuzberg from wohnungsbesichtigungsrallye on Vimeo.

AFP/ka

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Your comments about this article

13:29 December 3, 2010 by Clapoti
Like everyone said... "Sixty-three metres square (678 square feet), "completely renovated with cherry-wood flooring throughout, high ceilings, and a top-of-the-line, kitchen" according to the agent's blurb. The asking price is €726.08 per month, heating included." Seems very reasonable to me... maybe those people prefer sh*t holes with coal heating like 50 years ago in the east.

Maybe the problem also is that the "28-year-old student." should have finished his studies already and be working, then he could afford a place like that.
14:09 December 3, 2010 by catjones
YorkshireLad6...actually it was tried before July. It was called East Germany.
15:18 December 3, 2010 by Zlik
It's a shame. Because In Time, The only folks who will be able to afford to live in Berlin , will be (like NYC) , doctors and lawyers .
15:19 December 3, 2010 by William Thirteen
i wonder how many of these commenters actually live in Berlin?
15:25 December 3, 2010 by alleindalone
In Berlin whole streets are owned by companies. No wonder that they can systematically drive up rent prices. All this in a stagnating economy - that's actually what blows my mind. If that's fine for all you "get a job you hippy" people, then you actually deserve to pay 700-800€ for a mediocre flat. Actually, why not pay the double? Get a better job you middle class cheapo! Feed your local property company! Berlin is a wonderful city but concerning the housing situation it's pretty unhealthy.
17:51 December 3, 2010 by lordkorner
Man these people really have wucking forries .
18:28 December 3, 2010 by Eagle1
So much for the Turks being responsible for a dumbed-down population. It looks like Germany has some home-grown fruitcakes of its own to deal with.

If any hot chicks wish to come to my condo and get nude to protest the size of my mortgage payment, they are more than welcome to.
18:46 December 3, 2010 by DinhoPilot
I have a T0 to rent for "special auslanders" asking price 3500 eur month, has been refurbished. Public view upon request, 6 months rent in advance.
19:03 December 3, 2010 by Landmine
What knuckleheads! What on earth does getting naked on an apartment for rent do? They must be useless Stuttgart 21 protesters visiting Berlin....
20:28 December 3, 2010 by hillelmoses
I am really appalled at the majority of comments here. It seems almost as if I am reading comments by landlords! Or I should say that most of the people commenting here would like to be landlords or sympathize with such people out of their identifying with the wealthier classes. The point is that Real Estate around the world (as we know very well from the economic crisis that occurred just a couple of years) is a very convenient way to make huge profits based upon speculation, links between politicians and developers, etc. IT IS NOT A TRUE FREE ENTERPRISE SITUATION BECAUSE THERE IS LACK OF TRUE COMPETITION. IN A TRUE FREE MARKET SITUATION PRODUCTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR ALL KINDS OF INCOMES. IN PLACES LIKE LONDON, NEW YORK, AND SO MANY OTHER CITIES OF THE WORLD (AND INCREASINGLY BERLIN) IN THE CLUTCHES OF THE DEVELOPERS/POLITICIANS' RACKETS THERE IS A DEGREE OF SECRETIVE CONTROL AND MANIPULATION OF THE MARKET THAT IS THE VERY OPPOSITE OF FREE ENTERPRISE! SO LET'S CALL THE GAME FOR WHAT IT IS FOLKS AND DON'T GIVE ME YOUR NONSENSE THAT THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN IS RENTS THAT ARE ONLY AFFORDABLE TO THE UPPER CLASSES. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THIS KIND OF MONOPOLISTIC ELITIST AND ARROGANT ATTITUDE AND THE UNWORKABLE MARXIST IDEOLOGY THERE HAS TO BE AN ALTERNATIVE WHERE THERE IS TRUE COMPETITION AND AVAILABILITY OF HOUSING FOR ALL ECONOMIC STRATA.
21:11 December 3, 2010 by Gretl
Well, as a former mortgage underwriter, I can suggest one solution to increase the availability of affordable homes in the market - but it pertains to the American market. 1. Stop/limit financing for investment property. When I started in the mortgage industry, you could have 1 primary residence, 1 second home and 2 rental properties financed. When I left the industry in 2005, you could have up to 8 financed investment properties (depending on the program). That meant investor/slumlords were snapping up low priced homes and turning around and renting them for twice the cost of the monthly mortgage payment. 2. Eliminate the mortgage tax credit on second and rental properties. That would reduce the incentive to invest in real estate instead of the stock market. My two cents.
22:21 December 3, 2010 by hillelmoses
And I am glad to see that at least one person (Gretl) is honest enough to reveal one of the tricks by which the real estate market in cahoots with politicians game the system up. This kind of gaming up (needless to say) would be in complete contradiction to anything that Adam Smith ever advocated! In fact it is a travesty of the nature of a free market that Adam Smith advocated. The so called 'investment programs' or or let's call them by their real names 'rackets' that Gretl alludes to are nothing other than tricks devised by real estate entrepeneurs and the politicians that benefit from these tricks. Once again, no 'free market' here. And as we can see in the case of Ireland, Spain or even the United States such tricks and secretive manipulations eventually come crushing down. But of course the hope of all of these anti-free market racketeers and prostitute politicians is that they will be able to inflate the real estate bubbles up once again so as to endlessly go on profiting and screwing those that cannot play the game or are too poor. Free market? Hell no! Monopolistic, conniving, manipulative, and prostituting

fake entrepeneurs and politicians!

Unfortunately too many of the people who wrote here have low morals, lack of understanding of what a real free market entails, and gutter-level scornful elitism. Their attitude and so called 'wit' show them for what they are! SLIME!
22:43 December 3, 2010 by DinhoPilot
I have a T0 to rent for "special auslanders" asking price 3500 eur month, has been refurbished. Public view upon request, 6 months rent in advance

for real! Urgent
08:08 December 4, 2010 by Johnne
I think protests like are more needed in Munich :-))
18:37 December 4, 2010 by jolly-go-down
Looking at the sheer amount of comments and attention this article has gathered up, I'd say a nude protest is pretty effective.

Other than that, rent prices in Berlin will rise, it's just natural considering how the city has developed in the last twenty years and will still do in the future. Berlin is far from being saturated.

But eventhough it's natural, it's equally natural for people to attempt to delay this rise as long as possible, and as such, I support such a group and their cause. High rent prices benefit a few, low prices benefit a lot.
16:41 December 5, 2010 by hillelmoses
tO MAX AX

And isn't it convenient for politicians in cahoots with real estate entrepeneurs that the vacancy rate in Berlin for apts. is dropping sharply? And isn't it convenient that when there was an appeal recently to the Berlin Senate from certain housing groups for more construction of affordable housing the politicians (including the Lord Mayor) all acted as if such a thing was a horror to behold? And isn't it the case that such an attitude reflects the fact that rising property values based upon shortage of housing construction (so as to favor the rise of rents and the construction only of luxury housing) are good for bringing taxes in with all the ensuing distribution of money to favored political groups, kickbacks for politicians and contributions to their political careers, etc? Let's not be naive OR HYPOCRITES here folks. Real estate is a manipulative racket involving a complex and often secretive game between so-called entrepeneurs and politicians all in the name of the 'free-market' and the excitement of 'renovated' apartments, up-and coming neighborhoods and ALL THAT CRAP! It is the politicians that enable the 'so-called' entrepeneurs to raise rents by all kinds of rules and by manipulating scarcity. There is nothing of a free market here. The 'invisible hand of the market' that Adam Smith advocated is truly absent here since the real estate racket relies upon the manipulation of market rules by the politicians that then receive the benefits of their association with the real estate MAFIOSI. So the reality is that those FOOLS here that advocate rising rents as a symbol of capitalist progress and the free market ARE IN EFFECT THE ENEMIES OF THE FREE MARKET. I ADVOCATE TO THOSE ILLITERATE ENEMIES OF FREEDOM AND OF FREE ENTERPRISE TO READ THEIR SMITH AND THEIR HAYEK AND LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT FREE MARKET ENTAILS! AND PLEASE SPARE US THE EXCITEMENT WITH WHICH YOU FOOLS OR LIARS ATTEMPT TO JUSTIFY YOUR MANIPULATIVE GOVERNMENT SPONSORED RACKET!
02:15 December 6, 2010 by scallywagy
Which has us wondering, how perverse that an area once imagined uninhabitable becomes very habitable and desirable, and yet even more perverse is instead of moving on to the next de rigeur neighborhood (as has been custom for culture transgressors) the transgressors insist on staying with the hipsters and the pram plowing couples…

http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2010/12/berliners-stripping-naked-to-protest-rising-rents/
20:56 December 6, 2010 by hillelmoses
TO SCALLYWAGY AND HIS 'ELITIST' AND OH SO 'SUPERIOR' COMMENTS!

HOW PERVERSE IT IS THAT YOU CHOOSE TO EMPHASIZE ONLY THE 'TRANSGRESSORS' AND THEIR CULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS. DON'T YOU FEEL SUPERIOR TO THOSE POOR NAIVE FOOLS? YOU OF COURSE ARE SO MUCH BETTER!

BUT THOSE FOOLS AS WELL AS YOU 'ELITIST PRECIOUS SELF' ILLUSTRATE ONE THING:

IS IT THAT THE ONLY TWO OPTIONS ARE BETWEEN 1) UNINHABITABLE AREAS FILLED WITH THE POOR AND WOULD BE HIPSTERS, OR 2) VERY HABITABLE AND DESIRABLE AREAS FILLED WITH RENOVATED APTS. RENTING FOR ASTRONOMICAL PRICES AND FILLED WITH THE PRECIOUS SELVES THAT SCALLYWAGY EITHER IS OR WOULD LIKE TO BE?

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US WHO DON'T FALL INTO NEITHER OF THESE TWO GENERAL CATEGORIES OF THE WRETCHED POOR OR HIPSTERS IN HABITING A SLUM OR THE PRECIOUS ELITIST ONES LIVING WITH THEIR OWN KIND IN LALA LAND? WHAT ARE WE WHO ARE NEITHER SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN IT GETS HARDER AND HARDER TO FIND AN AFFORDABLE PLACE TO LIVE IN VAST AND MULTIPLE URBAN AREAS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. I SPEAK AS SOMEONE WHO HAS LIVED IN NEW YORK AND SEVERAL EUROPEAN CITIES FOR MANY YEARS AND I KNOW HOW HARD IT INCREASINGLY IS TO FIND A DECENT AFFORDABLE PLACE. THE CHOICES THAT ARE GIVEN BY SCALLYWAG ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH! AND THE ATTITUDE IS OF COURSE INSUFFERABLE AND ARROGANT TO THE HILT!
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