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Activists agitate against rising Berlin rents and gentrification

The Local · 31 May 2011, 16:37

Published: 31 May 2011 16:37 GMT+02:00

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A group of 19 leftist activists on Monday occupied a previously empty property on Schlesisches Straße in Berlin's trendy district of Kreuzberg with a banner proclaiming “Apartment shortage in the Wrangle neighbourhood!!! There are 33 empty flats here!” according to Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.

But following a complaint from the owners of the building, the housing association GSW, police moved quickly to prevent the house from becoming permanently occupied.

All 19 protestors were removed from the premises, as a crowd of over 100 people looked on. Six men and one woman were arrested and released a short time later.

Separately on Monday, a leftist group staged a protest during a press conference on the city's latest rent price index. Wearing white masks and red hoodies, they unfurled a banner that read “This City Belongs to Us” to protest at rising rents, social displacement and gentrification.

Rents in the German capital have experienced a sharp hike in recent years, with the average cost of flat rising over six percent in the past two years.

Leftist groups have frequently complained that such developments will push out established tenants particularly in districts such as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, which also housed around 1.1 million of Berlin’s 9 million overnight guests in 2010. This marked an eight percent increase on 2009, according to news magazine Der Spiegel, and has led to anti-tourist sentiment in some quarters.

However, one of the many activist groups based in the district has taken an entirely different approach to the influx of tourists. Normally pilloried for being foreign symbols of gentrification, tourists are now being asked to get involved in protests against it.

“Converting a squatted building into a techno party can be fun for tourists too,” Cristina H. told the magazine. The 28-year-old is a member of a group making the motto “Tourists and Kreuzberg Residents Unite!” part of their action plan against gentrification and rising rents in the area.

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The activists believe that the majority of the tourists who choose to stay in the area share their values and their feelings on the way the area is changing, given that the majority are from countries such as Britain, Spain and Italy, which currently have plenty of economic problems affecting young people.

“This part of town is popular for those who wants to experience the delights of Berlin cheaply, as most tourists here are young but don’t have much to spend,” fellow activist Jan P. told Der Spiegel. “So why shouldn’t they take part in protests against gentrification and displacement?”

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Your comments about this article

17:50 May 31, 2011 by derExDeutsche
isn't it ironic that the young people aka 'hipsters', who are causing all this gentrification and rent increases are the ones most vocal against ' gentrification ' . Why is it anybodies business if the landlord doesn't want to rent cheaply to underemployed disrespectful pinko 'activists' ?

take your fixie bike and ride ... ride like homogenous-ly ironic wind ...
18:14 May 31, 2011 by MJMH
Love it how today's youth think that education and cheap rent is a right like freedom of speech. Get a job and play the game like the rest of us if you want to live in Berlin.
18:24 May 31, 2011 by hOU
A rise of 6%....

wowee zoweee! You should check out HH rents!
18:54 May 31, 2011 by proclusian
I wonder why @derExDeutsche is so confused as to think that hipsters and leftists are the same? It strikes me that, aside from a few pet political projects (e.g., ending sweatshops, which for them means buying American Apparel), hipsters are definitively distinct from leftists as a class of youth.

Hipsters have (often) lots of money, in the form of trust funds, they are too ironic, usually, to care about politics enough to do anything, and they are just a new segment of consumer.

Leftists, on the other hand, are politically engaged, they take social justice seriously, and they attempt (insofar as it is possible) to free themselves from a mindless consumerism.
18:57 May 31, 2011 by Staticjumper
Was there anytime in the past that the title "acitivist" actually meant anything relevant? It seems now that its the same crowd of rebels without a clue looking for something/anything to protest. To quote MJMH, "Get a job" already. Grow up and at least try to contribute to society instead of opposing all conventional thought simply because it is conventional.
19:42 May 31, 2011 by derExDeutsche
I wonder if @proclusian has ever had a political conversation with a hipster ... really, any type of conversation w/ a Hipster for that matter? ad he, he would know that Hipsters are a 21st Century 'Children of the Corn' . Their thoughts, views, beliefs, political or otherwise stray very little from the pack (baaa-a-a)... and although I hate to be the bearer of bad news, 99% are leftists.
20:40 May 31, 2011 by McNair Kaserne
Not a surprise. Berlin has always been a "Red" city politically.

My wife, who is originally a West Berlin girl, agrees with me that Germans are basically inclined towards Socialism of one variety or another. This is unfortunate. Leftist "progressive" views will be the death of the German people and the German nation; in another few decades Germans will be a minority in their own country. Already there are area's where Germans may not walk safely down the street, and where the Polizei will only go in large groups. It grieves me to see what is happening to a country and a people whom I gave 3 years of my youth to protect and defend.

"Staticjumper", are your initials "B.H.?
21:00 May 31, 2011 by 9900lawre
Most people like to brumble about the cost of living this and the cost of living that but 6% in 2 years? That barely covers the landlords rise in insurance costs, maintenance costs, fees etc...

Students, activists and tree huggers from all countries seem to feel the need to climb something high and spout off about how things are soooo bad!

For many of them it's just another day out so they have something to talk about around a shared pepsi that night.

For the rest of us we've grown up, knuckled down and gone along with the flow, paying our way and doing our bit.
21:03 May 31, 2011 by hautnah23
The fact that rents are rising at a rate of 6% really shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone - I'm actually surprised it's not higher. However, despite these rising rates, Berlin is still far and away one of the cheapest, and arguably most awesome West-Central Europeans cities you can live in these days. Compare the rents here to just about anywhere else in Germany (the Eastern states being a bit of an exception) and you'll be grateful you're only shelling out 7-10 euros a square meter. And don't even start to compare with Paris/London...

What really irks me off about the whole rent issue is that while prices steadily rise, Berliners have seen little to no rise in their average income over the years. Suddenly paying rent is eating up half of Berliners' paychecks, and that's no way to live. Companies in Berlin, particularly young Internet-based firms also know that they can take advantage of endless 20-somethings from EU and elsewhere by paying them 400 euros a month. Berlin needs to address this even greater issue of artificially depressed salaries and give workers the compensation they deserve so that Berliners can start affording their own apartments once more.
08:19 June 1, 2011 by wires
The article fails to mention that the building at Schlesische Str. 25 was among a set of residential buildings that the city had given the GSW for free in the 90's with the requirement that these must be repaired. Instead of fulfilling their obligations the buildings were left in disrepair. Therefore, many tenants had to leave. Ten years later, the private investors who bought the GSW, also obtained the taxpayer owned buildings... for free. Another decisive factor is the fact that Wohngeld (city paid rent subsidies) are actually an indirect subsidy for landlords who calculate those subsidies into even higher rents. The increase of average rents in Berlin is indeed a meaningless factor, when wage increases -or lack thereof - is not considered. So, whether rents in Munich or Hamburg are even higher, is also a meaningless comparison. From reading other comments here, it seems some are proud that they pay higher rents and feel somehow smarter. But, is that the goal: to pay a higher percentage of wages for rent?
09:48 June 1, 2011 by strahlungsamt
I don't know where they get the 6% from. 60% would be more like it. I had an apartment in Berlin Wedding in 2006 for E215/mo Kalt. The same apartment now would cost me about E400+/mo. And Wedding is not even a chic neighborhood.

I visited Berlin recently and, like New York, the old artists that mad the place so unique, are gone and replaced by a bunch of snotty suburban kids from places like Baden Wurttemburg. These "Generation Inheritance" kids are driving up the rents without providing anything in exchange for real Berliners. As far as being "Left Wing", sorry but drinking free trade coffee and wearing Che and Obama t-shirts doesn't make you a leftie.

Berlin is the last city in the World where it is still possible for an artist to live cheap. It is the last place that still has some individuality left in it. Thanks to these hipsters, it won't stay that way much longer. That's what these people are protesting and more power to them.

If I've learned anything over the years it's that peaceful protest brings nothing. Passive resistance is not resistance.
10:03 June 1, 2011 by trash head
> Already there are area's where Germans may not walk safely down the street, and where the Polizei will only go in large groups.


What kind of right BS propaganda. A simple lie and a slap in the face of our society.
10:43 June 1, 2011 by Angry Ami
Won't stop anything, and let's face it, Berlin has had the low rents compared to the rest of the countries comparable big cities, and now the city is finally catching up, and guess who doesn't like it? the same people who don't want to pay for anything if they don't have to, but try as they might they cant stop progress, rents will rise, the well healed will move in, the district will become trendy, and that's that, they will probably get more violent in the short term, and that will force "Vater Stadt" to bring the hammer down, because the next thing that will happen if these lefty fanatics aren't put out of commission is finally someone is going to get killed, and when that happens then all bets are off.
10:49 June 1, 2011 by wires
@trash head: That's not propaganda, that phrase is just silly. Police so afraid they move only in large groups. lol. Like some here who seem proud to be paying higher rents in other cities -hardly comparable to Berlin with low wages- reveals a special kind of ignorance.

@strahlungsamt: That's right, after people worked and struggled to make Kreuzberg what it is, are now being asked to leave by lazy people who contributed really nothing, but just want to cash in like so many leaches. Just read the rental pages where landlords praise the artistic and creative qualities of the neighborhood inhabitants.
11:43 June 1, 2011 by trash head
> Like some here who seem proud to be paying higher rents in other cities -hardly comparable to Berlin with low wages- reveals a special kind of ignorance.

Well, Berlin wouldnt be the only german metropole and not Berlin, if the life wouldnt be that affordable there and the gates for an easy settle down arent open. Berlin lives only due to the massive growth of residents and the influx of foreigners, students and in first pace labors, who are attracted by the good opportunities in Berlin.
11:50 June 1, 2011 by wires
@"AngryAmi": "Your ignorance makes me ill and angry" (from "The Sixth Finter", Outer Limits)
12:50 June 1, 2011 by Cambsdon
People want to live in Berlin; It's the best city in Europe. These anarchists/Socialists/troublemakers need to get real. There is one solution! Put the Wall back up and make these protesters live on the Eastern side. The neu-Stasi can keep them quiet! For the record, I live in a flat in Cambridge, England, and I pay 1000€ per month rent. That IS a lot of money!
13:00 June 1, 2011 by trash head
> For the record, I live in a flat in Cambridge, England, and I pay 1000€ per month rent. That IS a lot of money!

We have in germany something called - social market system -

Its the responsibility of the authorities or "Vater Staat" (here correct spelled) to regulate the pricing. These ppl prevent the unreasonable increase of rents. In Hamburg for example we had just a demonstration of 5000 ppl who demonstrated for affordable apartments/flats/broom chamber what ever. Whats the justification of a planned rent increase?

And now dont tell me the walls are white colored ...
15:31 June 1, 2011 by Cuchullain
Rents are high and you like trees? Go live in a rural town. Get your hands dirty. Do something that resembles a real job. And hey, you'll have all the green space and manure you wish. Really, it's for the best. The earth needs you. Hurry.
16:28 June 1, 2011 by elboertjie
strahlungsamt: 'If I've learned anything over the years it's that peaceful protest brings nothing. Passive resistance is not resistance. '

What about non-compliance, especially en-mass?

On average, the real reason why prices rise, be it for rentals, energy or for food, is because the central banks simply keep creating more and more and more fiat currency. Thus, with more currency flooding the markets, of course prices will go higher because more diluted currency is needed to purchase the same goods.

Stop creating new money through bail-out packages, stimulus packages and 'quantitative easings'.

For more information, see 'Money as debt' and 'The Money Masters'.
17:22 June 1, 2011 by trash head
> Rents are high and you like trees? Go live in a rural town.

As bigger the citys as bigger the rents? Where is the logic behind this?

And btw, after Hamburg is Berlin the most green city in whole Europe (in the every year award) - for 12 years in the top 5.

> Do something that resembles a real job.

How is the kind of job related to the size of a city ?!

> And hey, you'll have all the green space and manure you wish.

I guess Berlin produce more manure as any rural city ;)

> Really, it's for the best. The earth needs you. Hurry.

The best for the world would be, if you stop talking manure. It really sucks :)
08:44 June 2, 2011 by proclusian
Dear @DerExDeutsche:

FAIL. Your basic confusion seems to be that you think that: "Those who have political opinions which are left of center" = "Leftists." Hipsters are not Leftists; they never have been and they never will be, even if their political opinions fall left-of-center. Let me try to keep this simple for you:

1.) As someone who has reasons to travel frequently to New York and stay with friends in Greenpoint, yes, I have plenty of occasions to talk to hipsters, and not just any hipsters, but hipsters par excellence, in Williamsburg.

2.) I agree with you, therefore, that they are (usually--there are always exceptions), kids follow the herd, especially when it comes to political opinions, and manner of dress. They are a tribe, and they dress so as to be able to identify one another.

3.) Nevertheless, Leftists are a distinct tribe from Hipsters. Leftists, as such, have strong far-left political opinions, and try (as much as they can) to live and act according to these opinions. The kids you see throwing stones in Greece? Rioting in Gothenburg? The ones occupying apartments in Berlin? These are Leftists. The kids shopping in Urban Outfitters and whingeing how much they hate George W. Bush? Hipsters. No self-respecting Hipster would be caught dead at an anti-war demo, or occupying an apartment like this. That is simply. Not. Cool. Bro.

@strahlungsamt put it best above when he said: "drinking free trade coffee and wearing Che and Obama t-shirts doesn't make you a leftie." The ones who are driving up the prices and the ones protesting are not one and the same, by any means. That's an entirely inane suggestion.
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