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‘Bitter setback’: What’s the reaction to Berlin’s rental cap law being scrapped?

Berliners face mass rent increases after a rental cap was deemed unlawful. Here's the huge reaction from residents and politicians.

'Bitter setback': What's the reaction to Berlin's rental cap law being scrapped?
Flats in Lichtenberg, Berlin. Photo: DPA

What’s the reaction from Berliners?

Germany’s highest court has ruled that Berlin’s ‘Mietendeckel’, or rental cap, is unconstitutional.

The capital’s “Mietendeckel” law or rent cap “violates the Basic Law and is thus ruled void”, the court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe said in a blow to millions of tenants.

READ MORE: Germany’s top court rules Berlin’s disputed rent cap unlawful

The ruling pushes up the cost of renting for many. For those who are able to afford to pay the higher rental cost, the decision is inconvenient, or could result in a change in their quality of life. 

But for others who budgeted around the Mietendeckel prices, there may be more serious repercussions such as having to move homes.

READ ALSO: Berlin’s ‘Mietendeckel’ rent freeze ruled unlawful. What does it mean for tenants?

As the tweets show, many people face higher payments each month, and uncertainty.

What’s the reaction from opposition politicians?

The rent freeze was passed by Berlin’s legislature in January 2020. It was a flagship policy of the local governing coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the far-left Linke (Left) parties.

The court ruled in favour of MPs from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democrats, who are both in opposition in Berlin.

It agreed with their argument that rent policy falls under federal law not the jurisdiction of Germany’s 16 states.

The centre-right CDU and the FDP in Berlin, who had challenged the decision, slammed the SPD/Greens/Left coalition. 

Daniel Föst, spokesperson for building and housing policy of the FDP parliamentary group, said the Berlin Senate had used tenants for an “ideological experiment against their better judgement and this has failed thoroughly”. 

Now Berliners would have to “pay the piper in the form of back rent payments and housing shortages”, he said, adding that the rent cap had further fuelled the housing shortage.

Berlin CDU leader Kai Wegner, called the court ruling “a bitter defeat” for the coalition. 

“The Senate has deceived tenants in Berlin with its false rent cap promise. The damage is great. Many people have relied on the Senate’s claims,” Wegner said

Meanwhile, federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) welcomed the decision. The rent cap is now “history”, he said. “That’s good, because it was the completely wrong way to go in terms of building policy. It created uncertainty in the housing market, slowed down investments and did not create a single new flat.”

What does it mean for the Berlin government?

The decision is a clear defeat for the Berlin Senate: the rent cap was one of the central projects of the red-red-green coalition and highly controversial from the beginning. 

The leaders of Berlin’s Left Party, state chairwoman Katina Schubert, mayor and culture senator Klaus Lederer, and the two parliamentary group leaders Anne Helm and Carsten Schatz said they regreted the judges’ decision.

“For Berlin’s tenants, but also for the federal states as a whole, the decision is a bitter setback,” they said.

They stressed that this deprived the state of Berlin of the possibility to limit rents but that the federal government refused to regulate the housing market more strongly.

“That’s why we had to act at the state level and tried to exploit all possible leeway,” they said in a statement. “We knew that we were entering new legal territory with this, but from our point of view there were very good arguments for state competence.”

READ ALSO: These are the reasons why so many Germans rent rather than buy

Berlin was the first and only of Germany’s states to introduce a rent cap. The law froze rents at the level from June 2019 until 2025, after which any increases would have been limited to 1.3 percent per year in line with inflation.

According to the city’s department for urban development and housing, it affected more than 1.5 million apartments. Exceptions included social housing and new apartments built since 2014.

Some particularly high rents were even lowered, pending the court ruling.

What do people in Germany think about the rent cap?

According to a survey by the digital real estate manager Objego, more than half of Germans are in favour of a rent freeze policy like the one in Berlin.

The representative survey of 2,500 tenants and landlords across the country found 54 percent of Germans would be in favour of the “Mietendeckel”. A total of 30 percent of those surveyed voted against it.

And the poll found that a third of the landlords are also in favour of a rent cap.

However, around 54 percent of the landlords surveyed said they did not want an upper rent limit.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!

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