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Nearly 1,800 people turn up for single flat viewing in Berlin

How difficult is it to find a reasonably priced flat to rent in Berlin? Well, there's a lot of competition out there as this mass viewing shows.

Nearly 1,800 people turn up for single flat viewing in Berlin
Flat viewings in Berlin can be extremely stressful. Photo: DPA

A Berlin property manager's ad for a vacant rental apartment triggered a mass viewing on Sunday.

A whopping 1,749 flat-hunters queued outside to visit the vacant apartment in Meininger Straße in the city's sought-after Schöneberg district. The flat was advertised online just 12 hours before, broadcaster RBB reported.

As The Local has reported, renting in Germany is becoming more stressful due to rocketing prices and lack of available housing.

In Berlin, apartment viewings are notorious for attracting many applicants who are desperate to find a reasonably priced home in the Hauptstadt

READ ALSO: Rent a tent: shared flat in central Berlin posts advert for balcony

The flat, which is near the Schöneberg Town Hall, is on the third floor of a 1950s building. It is equipped with two rooms and a balcony, is 54 square metres in size and is being offered for €550 per month 'warm' – that means extra costs like heating and water are included in the total.

In order to organize the flat-hunters at the viewing and to avoid panic in the stairwell, the property manager gave instructions through a megaphone. Only groups of about 20 to 30 people were allowed into the apartment at once.

This video by RBB shows the crowds at the viewing on Sunday.

Several flat-hunters slammed the procedure. One woman told RBB that inviting so many people at once was “somehow provocative”.

“I don't know if I should go in there. In the end you have no other choice,” she said.

Another viewer called the situation a “catastrophe”. But said it “really reflects the current picture of what housing in Berlin means. This is not an isolated case.”

The property manager Rolf Harms justified the decision to let hundreds of interested people come at one, saying a pre-selection of candidates had already been carried out.

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Harms said no applicants searching for a second home, or with a high income, were invited to the viewing. 

The property manager will decide who gets the vacant apartment in just over a week.

Germany's problematic rental market

The housing market is particularly strained in big cities, including Munich and Stuttgart, both in southern Germany.

In this map of Germany, the dark red areas show “very strained” areas in the housing market. The orange areas are said to be “strained”,  yellow areas are “balanced”, light blue areas are “stagnant” and blue areas “declining”.

People across Germany regularly hold marches and demos against 'rent insanity' in a bid to push authorities to take measures to keep rents down. 

Berlin recently passed a controversial bid to freeze rents for five years.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to how you can (still) live cheaply in Berlin

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MONEY

Wohngeld: How people in Germany can get help with rising living costs

Many households in Germany could be eligible for increased financial support with their rents and bills from next year. We break down who should apply and how much help they could receive.

Wohngeld: How people in Germany can get help with rising living costs

The cost of living is rising across the board, and nowhere is this being felt more than in the home. For over a year, gas and electricity bills have been soaring and people on low incomes have been left wondering how to make ends meet.

While there is support available for people in this situation, it seems that many households in Germany aren’t aware that they could be eligible to apply for Wohngeld, or housing allowance, to help them with their expenses. What’s more, the amount of money people can get is set to rise at the start of next year.

Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly is Wohngeld?

Wohngeld, or housing allowance, is a form of financial aid for low-income households in Germany. It’s intended to help with the general costs associated with housing, such as monthly rents and utility bills.

Even people who own their own homes are able to get support with their mortgage repayments and building management costs (known as Hausgeld). However, they do have to fulfil certain criteria, like earning under a certain amount per month.

Unlike long-term unemployment benefit, which also includes a stipend for rent and bills, Wohngeld is intended for people who don’t rely on any other form of state support. That could include single parents or people with minimum wage jobs who spend a large proportion of their income on rent.

It means that people on jobseekers’ allowance and students with state loans and grants aren’t able to apply for Wohngeld. 

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How much money can people receive?

That depends on a range of factors such as where you live, how high your rent is and how much money you earn this month. However, one thing that’s clear is that Wohngeld is likely to rise significantly at the start of next year.

On Wednesday, cabinet ministers voted through proposals from Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) to hike the monthly allowance by around €190 on average. That means that instead of receiving €177 per month, the average household on Wohngeld will receive around €370 per month starting in January. 

It’s worth noting that Geywitz’s reforms still need to clear a vote in the Bundestag, but with the governing coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP behind the move, it’s likely that they will. 

The Housing Ministry has also put together an online tool that can calculate the amount of Wohngeld each household is entitled to. At the moment, this still calculates the allowance based on the current rates – but it will be updated if the reforms are passed by parliament. 

Who’s eligible for Wohngeld?

That depends on a complex calculation based on factors such as income, the number of people in a household, the size and location of the property and how high monthly housing expenses are. There’s no straightforward income threshold that people can refer to, which could explain why thousands of households who could potentially get Wohngeld never apply for it.

The best way to check if you’re currently eligible is to use the government’s Wohngeld calculator tool. But as we mentioned above, this is still based on the current criteria and monthly rates. 

As well as hiking the monthly allowance, Geywitz also wants to expand the criteria so more households are eligible for Wohngeld.

At the moment, around 600,000 households in Germany receive Wohngeld. This could increase by 1.4 million to two million under Geywitz’s plans. From next year, people earning minimum wage and people on low pensions are set to be among those who are able to apply. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Germany this year?

Sound good – where do I sign up?

In general, the states and municipalities are responsible for handling Wohngeld applications. That means you should apply at the local Wohngeldamt (housing allowance office), Wohnungsamt (housing office) or Bürgeramt (citizens’ office) in your district or city. 

If you’re unsure where to go, searching for ‘Wohngeld beantragen’ (apply for housing allowance) and the name of your city or area should pull up some search results that can guide you further. 

Apartment blocks in Berlin Marzahn.

Apartment blocks in Berlin Marzahn. Photo: picture alliance / Matthias Balk/dpa | Matthias Balk

Alongside an application form, you’ll likely have to submit a tenancy agreement, ID, information on your residence rights and proof of any income or state support you already receive. Other members of your household may also have to submit similar financial information. 

You should also be registered at the address you’re applying for Wohngeld for. 

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

Are there any other changes to Wohngeld I should know about?

Anyone already on Wohngeld, or who receives it between September and December this year, is also entitled to a special heating allowance to help with winter energy costs. This is also set to be given to students and trainees receiving a BAföG loan or grant.

For students and trainees, the heating allowance is set at €345 per person. Meanwhile, the amount given to Wohngeld recipients will vary on the size of the household.

Single-person households will receive €415, two-person households will get €540 and there will be an additional €100 per person for larger households. 

This is likely to paid out in January. 

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