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Anti-gentrification protesters disrupt Berlin luxury property tour

Published: 21 Oct 2011 15:50 GMT+02:00

The “Long Night of Apartment Viewings,” organised by the ImmobilienScout24 real estate website bussed about 2,000 apartment hunters through eight different districts of the capital, showing off about 150 properties for rent and sale.

The tour was greeted by protesters, who say rents and property prices in formerly run-down and latterly fashionable districts are forcing out original inhabitants, as well as the students and artists who make areas attractive.

At one property in Kreuzberg 25 people showed up to disrupt the viewing. A 29-year-old woman wrote on a doorway with crayon and was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, according to Die Welt newspaper.

Just down the road, a group of 30 protesters were confronted by police who issued trespass warnings, while in another incident in the Prenzlauer Berg district, protesters smeared apartment walls with an unknown substance and stole some small items, Die Welt reported.

The issue of gentrification is an emotional one in the capital, which was long famed for its low rents but where prices have been rocketing in some suddenly fashionable areas.

The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

20:18 October 21, 2011 by McNair Kaserne
These leftist squatter types were demanding the right to live on someone else's property back when the wall was up, 30 years later the same....
21:28 October 21, 2011 by neunElf
"the students and artists who make areas attractive"?

Attractive to whom?

These "tolerant" types have very little tolerance for any ideas/people who they deem to be unattractive!

Totalitarianism is a great thing, as long as my feelings are the standard everyone else needs to emulate!
03:57 October 22, 2011 by Freeman
My old shabtown has an apt. across the street going for "Five Million Dollars". I kid you not.
10:59 October 22, 2011 by wires
During the 80's many buildings in Kreuzberg that were squatted, were actually doomed to be demolished to make way for an extensive autobahn, ie. Görlitzer Park, Wassertorplatz). During the following years these buildings were renovated, i.e. IBA 1983 and community infrastructures were developed by the inhabitants. Because of lower rents, students, starting families, etc. had a chance to survive. Many neighborhoods have indeed become attractive, otherwise why would any investor or hipster with a family inheritance want to move into such a neighborhood?

With the Kappungsgrenze of 20% for new rentals gone since about 2007, investors from other parts of the world, who really had nothing to with making neighborhoods attractive, can obtain buildings for very cheap, renovate them using cheap labor, then rent them for many times the usual rent while citing how attractive an area is. Higher rents effect the average rates (Mietspiegel) for all tenants. How high or low rents, comparatively to other cities, depends on available jobs and wages. Berlin is not especially known for very high paying jobs.

Renting an apartment is not the same as purchasing consumer items with pricing regulated by the standard market principle of demand and price. Tenants can be families with roots in a neighborhood where jobs are, children's' schools, etc. Leaving a neighborhood is not the same as buying a flat-screen. Living quarters touch the very substance of human existence and require tolerance especially from people who are financially and socially stronger and have more choices as to where to live.

Why apartment dwellers would defend higher rents, instead of protesting, is beyond me.
14:20 October 22, 2011 by MonkeyMania
All these idiots do is cause rents to be even higher. Landlords will not rent directly because of these idiots but instead use immobilien maklers who in turn charge a fee. Then there is repair costs etc which will also need to be factored into rent. Do they honestly think investors will invest to have buildings renovated in order to leave the price the same? The buildings these flats are in were falling apart and would have been both dangerous and an eyesore if it wasn't for renovation.
14:32 October 22, 2011 by DoctorEconomy
When looking towards solutions for the current economic crisis, we would be remiss to consider that property rights are at the center of the problem and always have been. To refute this is to refute the facts.

In addition to the current rampant and unbridled theft of public money, another effect of the era of greed and it's perpetrators has been the continuous oppression of the working class through the artificial inflation of of the value of property buy what many are calling "The 1%".

Capitalism, in it's current form, is much the same as a social disease or religious cult. The leaders of Capitalism, or übercapitalists, must embrace and embody the most extreme behaviors of the Capitalist ideal in order set the guiding example for their followers. Like a virus moving through blood, übercapitalists teach their followers that it is okay to profit from the hardships of others, that for every winner there must be a looser. I think most respectable human beings find this unacceptable.

It could be said that in order for the Capitalist system to be successful, it must be led by extremists and extremism has been equated to terrorism in the last 10 years. If what we are told by the "mainstream" is true, than the world must do away with extremism in order for sane people to flourish. Property owners continue to terrorize non property owners by making the possibility of homelessness an ever present possibility, thereby governing the general population through fear and oppression, something I was taught as a child were bad things and that those who perpetrated such acts deserved punishment.

Therefore it stands to reason that to change our current system of finance and economics, the concept of property rights and property speculation should be eliminated from our frame of reference in favor of a more equitable and viable possibilty.

The solution to the current global crisis is actually an easy one. Remove computers from the electoral process and return to paper ballots. Elect officials that will put property value caps in place to reverse the ill conceived concept of property speculation for profit and make the pursuit of such a concept a criminal act.

Elect officials who will start to put regulations back in place that protect the people from predatory business practices and practitioners. Elect officials who will tax the rich, remove the corporations right to personhood, make corporations environmentally accountable and have the global debt repaid by those who have stolen most of the money.

Just as humans have the right to drink clean free water, they also have the right to live in a respectable residence free from the fear of displacement or harassment by the thugs that property investors have become.
15:20 October 22, 2011 by catjones
DoctorEconomy..it must be heartwarming to live in your simple, black and white world of good and evil; especially when you've identified yourself as one of the good guys.
16:07 October 22, 2011 by MonkeyMania
"Just as humans have the right to drink clean free water, they also have the right to live in a respectable residence free from the fear of displacement or harassment by the thugs that property investors have become. "

So by writing on the walls of peoples homes you are going to achieve your ideals. Don't forget these people are mainly people who just want the security of owning their own home. That does not fall in with your rhetoric.
16:16 October 22, 2011 by b-c
No surprise the touristy commentator crowd of this web page ("incidentally" often also very racist) would be horrified by this action. I say: Well done! It is very simple: We CAN NOT afford higher rents. And we want this to be Berlin with all what it still offers. Not some bad copy of other culture-free, sterile, expensive and stressy big cities of Europe. If you don't like it here - if you don't understand what Berlin is and means - for your own sake please leave.
16:43 October 22, 2011 by derExDeutsche
aww. so the 'Poor' Hipster Gentrifiers are mad because of the Gentrification?

Ironically, rich Hipsters pretending to be poor are worse for Apartment shortages and rent increases, than these developers who actually IMPROVE properties, could ever be.

you gotta love the Hipster Nouveaux Pouvres
17:46 October 22, 2011 by wires
Many rental buildings especially in Kreuzberg have been bought up by investment firms. They have no interest in renovating. Actually, a percentage of the rent is usually set aside for upkeep and repairs. Many building owners save on that. The investment firms' main interest is to increase the value of properties by raising rents and doing a very minimum on upkeep to keep costs low; their only interest is to attain a "healthy" return for wealthy investors. That model is at opposition to the purpose of providing housing.

In fact, the city of Berlin handed over dozens of buildings to the GSW with the stipulation of upkeep and repair. The GSW didn't fulfil the contract. Instead apartments were kept empty when people moved out. The GSW in turn was sold to a private investor for very cheap, who in turn may repair the buildings just enough to rent them out for very expensive rents. In effect these buildings were subsidized by the taxpayer, who now must pay higher rents also because of the increases in the Mietspiegel.

Gentrification is pretty much a takeover of intact neighborhoods by investors who behave more like leeches by billing the inhabitants who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place.
18:02 October 22, 2011 by DoctorEconomy
catjones. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. The problem stems from a society being told by its' leaders that it is okay to live beyond your means, spend money you don't have and generate fear through debt.

It creates negative space. You can call it evil if you need to place old and tired labels on things so that you can organise your thoughts. That way you can ask yourself the hard questions before someone else starts asking them for you.

MonkeyMania. The struggle will always be between "The Haves" and "The Have Nots". I think it safe to say that everybody wants the security of a stable home. I don't think stability comes through the purchasing of property, or as you say "owning their own home". In fact, in America, many people who bought homes have lost them because of the massively unstable economic system that you seem to be clutching onto. I cant really see how Property speculation worked towards the stability of their families.

derExDeutsche. Your tone really only serves to confirm and empower my previous points. If you are a home owner and you want to improve your property to make your life in that home better than go ahead, nobody is stopping you. However, homes are to be lived in not used as currency, they are meant to be lived in.

If you "improve" a property so that you can sell it on and make a profit, you have become part of the problem. Much the same as beverage companies that privatize water sources, property speculators profit from denying humans a basic birth right, the right to live in a respectable home.

Some things, like providing essential services to the status quo for the continuance of life, should not be available for profiteering. The fact that it is was the brain child of Reagan and Thatcher and the whole misguided power generation of the 80's who boldly led us into the current global financial meltdown.

The world does not need developers and investors to improve properties. It is a self contained economic bubble that only feeds the people that feed it, as wires pointed out, and it could be easily be made redundant.

The world DOES need to share it living resources in equal measure, starting with an equal and fair distribution of property. It is unacceptable that anyone should have to live in fear of being homeless.

As to your comment about "hipsters", i really have no idea what you are talking about.
20:37 October 22, 2011 by MonkeyMania
@DoctorEconomy

"I don't think stability comes through the purchasing of property, or as you say "owning their own home". In fact, in America, many people who bought homes have lost them because of the massively unstable economic system that you seem to be clutching onto. I cant really see how Property speculation worked towards the stability of their families."

That would be the many people who could not manage their finances in any case. Those people even if not buying their own home would have built up massive credit card debts whilst living in rented property anyway. Buying your own home works if you set about repaying the loan you took to buy it. This is a long haul and takes discipline and hard work. Something I fear a lot of our leftist neighbours are not willing to do. I did it and am very happy I did. Never had a credit card debt and always lived within my means. Never wrote on anyone's wall or damaged their car either.
21:39 October 22, 2011 by derExDeutsche
@DoktorEconomy

'As to your comment about "hipsters", i really have no idea what you are talking about.'

I apologize, I forget that Kifyeh's, tight pants, dress hats, horn-rim glasses, beards, useless art degrees, Maoist politics, fixed gear bicycles and trust funds are only a local phenomenon,

and not the idiot Poster Children for the argument against Globalization.
01:05 October 23, 2011 by DoctorEconomy
@MonkeyMania.

I realize how hard it is to consider an entirely new idea for the new world order when you have become so comfortable with the old one. This is probably why you still subscribe to outmoded examples and feel the need to use impotent labels like RIght, Left, Capitalist and Communist.

Name calling and labelling doesn't really accomplish anything, except, in this case to give yourself enough public rope to hang yourself with and to reveal how desperate you are to make your point, any point, no matter how badly conceived.

To suggest that a "Left Wing Liberal" doesn't work as hard as a "Right Wing Conservative" is a farcical statement that only reaffirms everything that I have been speaking about here. Narrow minded uneducated viewpoints such as this only serve to derail any kind of potential for change that may address the needs of the disenfranchised.

I think it important for people like you to give this some consideration, for the disenfranchised never stay that way for very long. Desperation often motivates change. The more desperation involved, the more violent the change. The only constant in nature is change, so it would bode you well to learn to embrace it.

In my experience, however, it is a concept that self proclaimed "Right Wing Conservatives" cannot grasp and do everything in their power to avoid. They simply do not have the imagination nor the education to completely understand such things, or worse, have no empathy for the disenfranchised. Lack of empathy shows a predisposition to psychopathic behaviour. Psychopathic behavior is considered anti social and, in more intelligent times, was often punished by law.

If you need labels, then how about we dumb it down even more and label people "Predator" or "Prey". I think that would really clear things up, don;t you?

As to your comments about debt management: while I accept that there will always be a percentage of people who cannot manage their affairs, this percentage is not the majority and is of no real concern to me. My references are to the honest working people who have been subjugated by unscrupulous sociopathic employers and do not receive a proper living wage because of the madness and greed of a deregulated marketplace.

@derExDeutsche.

(said like Kevin from "The Office - US")

You are funny. You make me laugh. I like laughing. I like laughing at you. I like laughing at stupid things.
05:27 October 23, 2011 by wires
Strange, no one on this thread except "Doctor Economy" has addressed the root problems, some of which I've described; i.e. investment companies obtaining buildings for a very cheap at taxpayer expense such as in the case of the GSW and Cerberus und Whithall whose main objective is to satisfy investors with profits at the expense of hard-working tenants.

People have worked very hard to improve their neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have become so attractive, that other people, without lifting a finger, aim to profit from that work by doubling and tripling rents (in my building new rentals have been tripled with few tax-deductible improvements); that really reflects a lack of tolerance and is very anti-social.
07:48 October 23, 2011 by MonkeyMania
"I realize how hard it is to consider an entirely new idea for the new world order when you have become so comfortable with the old one. This is probably why you still subscribe to outmoded examples and feel the need to use impotent labels like RIght, Left, Capitalist and Communist. "

@DoctorEconomy

No, the point is those losers in the current world order who fail would like to bring everyone else down around them. Attacking people who work and try to get on in life does not answer any problems. Left-Wing losers would rather not try at all and hate to see hard working people get off the ground. By all means, protest against the Bankers, Politicians, Credit rating agencies but don't go out and destroy what hard working people have built up for themselves. I would rather live in a community where everyone owns their home than in one where one large immobilien company owns the whole street. Agreed, there is too much corruption at the top level of banks and in Politics. But this would still be the same under a socialist or communist system. We don't have to think too far back to remember how corrupt the DDR was and how restrictive freedom was there. Ask someone who grew up in Communist Russia for their opinion. They will most likely tell you that you are right but do you know a better way? I haven't heard of a better way yet. In fact, the proposals of DoctorEconomy would lead to a disaster for us all. History has already proven that.

I agree that pure Capitalism is as bad as pure Communism. I liked the was Germany was until the last decade where there was a capatilist system but with a social safety net (so to speak). Unfortunately, I can see this net slowly been taken away. Attacking homes of home-owners and cars of successful working people is not the answer to this. Demonstrate outside the Reichstag, avoid using banks as much as possible. Don't use Bank credit, stop spending. This will hurt those who are really responsible. Hit them in their pockets and profit margins, stock value. Writing graffity on someones door or burning their car does not mean a damn thing to top bankers or politicians.
13:32 October 23, 2011 by wires
Through protest, calling out the places and names of corporate entities and persons (often receiving government bail-outs, tax write-offs, subsidies), whether legally or illegally, and responsible for making the lives of hard working people living in rental apartments even more hard merely for the sake of morally undeserved profit-taking, is important in a democratic, tolerant and fair-chance society.
14:26 October 23, 2011 by iline
Hey! Let's stop trolling and flaming and bitching and try to scratch out a solution. The world provides mass communication; the masses abuse it to screech insults at one another. Put the toys back in the pram and let's talk about a solution.

1. Mietervereins

The rent for the apartments in a building can be indexed to one another with a little transparency and communication. Finding out exactly what each apartment's contribution to the costs of repair and renovation would help limit the possibility of a rental hike at the next termination of a rental contract. Transient populations make these unions harder to form however, which brings me to ...

2. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SUBLETTING

Sublets, particularly holiday lets of whole furnished apartments, are eating into the balance of the mietespiegel. Everyone, almost without exception, has had the bright idea of charging a sub-tenant more money for their room than it is worth on the contract, or to rent the communal room as a bedroom to a foreigner for two-thirds of the apartment's monthly rent, or to price their flat at London or New York rates for holidaymakers from those countries. It has to STOP. Almost everyone I speak to who bemoans the rent rises, has themselves profited in some way. The transient population, and empty flats waiting to service them, MUST be reduced to house families. Sorry 'bout that, but it's obvious.

Don't preach about gentrification unless you can distance yourself from the root causes of it!

3. IT'S INEXORABLE

Berlin has been suffering the ill-effects of the Bundespolitik for over a century and the teenage town from the 80s is fast becoming a young profi with kids on the way. Investment was desperately needed to raise Berlin from the mire of debt; this is still, even today, a long while off. The city needs business. While Europeans flock to the city famed for this and that lifestyle, the money to build new housing is not appearing. Cheaper is the option to renovate existing (face it, quite grand) apartment buildings. Which means more people, less apartments - and what apartments there are have been totally made over into 21st Century dwellings. No bad thing on the face of it, if you think ofenheizung is a little lo-tech - but there is a predictable bottleneck here.

4. GENTRIFICATION IS A DIRTY WORD

I would prefer to survive a week in Berlin without hearing the 'G' word crop up, yet sadly, being part of the problem as I am, I usually hold this conversation in English with people from outside Berlin. If we can at least promise to avoid talking about the sweeping changes and try to identify the mitigating factors, or causes that can be addressing, at least when it's election time, a few more heads will roll for failing to address the needs and wishes of Berlin's long-term residents. The transient population has to be reduced for those willing to be here longer and commit to conserving the vibe for which this city is utterly unique.
01:02 October 24, 2011 by DoctorEconomy
@iline. Very eloquent.

Perhaps the city should once again be divided into sectors, each sector being zoned as either residential or tourist. The actual equation will take some time to work out, but it is a viable possibility that would see the property value and rent increases in certain neighborhoods capped or increased commensurately with the local residents wages. The land in these neighborhoods would have to be revalued to reflect the local economy.

In place of revaluing property, which rescinds property rights, a substantial land tax could be levied on property owners whose properties exceed the suggested capped value and those taxes put toward the creation of new and affordable homes in key communities, both central and suburban, for Berliners. Land owners would then voluntarily reduce the values of their properties to avoid the tax.

I expect in some neighborhoods, certain buildings located at key intersections would have to be zoned in this manner so as to not deprive local residents of the opportunity to live in reasonably priced accommodation in high traffic areas, which are usually the first to have their value inflated during gentrification.

I agree that the city needs to attract foreign business in order for it to grow. Growth must begin in a manageable environment that allows local business to succeed.

The city should have an ordinance that caps the amount that local residents can charge for tourist accommodation. If tourists come here and stay in accommodation that is priced so that local residents can still afford it, tourists will have more disposable cash and tourist dollars will be more evenly spread throughout all aspects of city life, creating very real prosperity.

Property rights should not dominate, nor dictate to, this city's economy if it wants to floursh and perhaps even lead the world into the 21st century property revolution.

Now find me a candidate so we can get them elected.
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