Is Berlin the Affordable Housing Beacon of Hope?


Throughout the world, it is clear that rents are escalating in capital cities and making it harder for normal people and families to exist in those places.  From London to Paris and from New York to Sydney and Hong Kong, prices keep increasing to the point people need to move.  There is one city that is bucking some of these trends and pushing for not only more social housing but lower rents within the existing portfolio.

Growing City:

In an article on the DW website, we learned that  In the last five years, around 220,000 people have moved to Berlin. That means the city is very interesting, it’s attractive to people who see its potential.

The Rent is Too Damn High!:

In an article from the City Lab website, we learned that Berlin recently made some large changes in the rent structure and now people with low incomes in social housing will be paying no more than 1/3 of their income for rent.  They even went as far as to make that threshold 25% in areas that have high  People living in social housing in Germany’s capital city need to be on a pretty low-income to qualify for social housing.  For example around $18,000 for a one person household.  So you can imagine that the rent would be quite low in this situation.   The fact that Berlin is cutting rent costs in this current climate of increasing costs is something special to pay attention too.

Build Baby Build:

The city of Berlin plans to also build an additional 30,000 social housing units over the next 10 years.  The aggressive planning on the part of Germany’s largest city should really help them from ending up in the positions that Paris and London are currently in.  However; building is not where Berlin has stopped.

Buying Private Market Buildings:

Another more recent article in the City Lab brings out that the city is snatching up buildings.  This is being done to stop rent hikes when an owner tries to sell a building.  The government buys the building and keeps the rents at a lower level.  There is a lot of real estate speculation taking place in Berlin so this pro-active movement by the city is another method to control rent prices. The housing will be directed to a state owned company.  There are many laws in place within Berlin  that protect renters.  This includes protections on rents, buildings, neighborhoods and more.

A Culture of Collaborative Housing:

Berlin also has one of the strongest cultures of collaborative housing in Europe.  I have visited many squats and other projects that have been built over the years.  These co-living situations provide more opportunities for people to live in affordable situations.   Many former squats were offered to the tenants some years ago and are now co-living situations.  Of even greater interest, there are new co-housing developments being created in Berlin.

The Future Looks Bright:

Berlin is leading the way for other major global cities.  From building, to preserving to trying new methods of co-living- Berlin is on the forefront of the affordable housing battles. We will continue to monitor these changes in the upcoming years.

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