Michael Müller, Lord Mayor of Berlin and a Social Democrat, intends to lend his support to private residential property investors. Or so Müller said in an interview he gave the Berlin daily B.Z. in early January.1 “We need private investors, too,” he emphasised in the course of a dialogue that touched upon Berlin’s housing policy, among other subjects.
In his interview with the B.Z., Müller backed a call for making it easier for investors to build, for instance by optimising and speeding up permit procedures. Berlin’s mayor believes moreover that the process of further densification should be simplified. He cited the topping up of existing buildings, which was made much harder by a directive the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing issued last summer, as a bad example illustrating the shortcomings of Berlin’s current housing policy.2 According to the directive, it is no longer permitted to cut back trees as needed to develop an attic or a gap site.
“One should take a hard look at such regulations and consider rescinding them if doing so will expedite the development of attic floors,” said Müller as he criticised the directive. His demand to ease the strict regulatory policy-making of the governing coalition of Social Democrats, The Left and Greens is vindicated by the latest building permit stats. Between January and September of 2017, the State Office for Statistics registered a year-on-year decline by 24.4 percent in approvals for building works in existing buildings in Berlin.
Müller at Loggerheads with his Own Coalition Partners
During the interview, the Lord Mayor of Berlin also found fault with the housing policy of certain boroughs. Asked about the City Councillor for Construction and Urban Development in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, who makes heavy use of the borough’s right of first refusal in order to prevent the sale of rental apartment buildings to private investors, Müller replied: “We do want to increase the state’s own housing stock—by building and buying. So the question is whether the Councillor permits investments in open areas or perhaps even expedites them. That is the kind of dual approach I expect.”Müller’s criticism of the mentioned housing policy decisions are also remarkable insofar as they concern his partners in the city’s governing coalition of Social Democrats, The Left, and Greens. The Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing, which put the brakes on the development of attics, is headed by Katrin Lompscher of the Left Party. Florian Schmidt, the City Councillor for Construction and Urban Development in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg who has embarked on a collision course with private investors, is a member of the Greens. The next opportunity to discuss the housing policy issue will be in late January when the Senate of Berlin will gather for a closed meeting.