City Hall Rethinking Berlin’s Housing Policy
Berlin’s Social Democrats are moving closer toward a realignment of the housing policy for Germany’s first city. In early January, Lord Mayor Michael Müller had already made a case for a more investor-friendly policy,1 and the Social Democrats in the state parliament just passed a resolution toward that end.2 The white paper, which the Social Democrats drafted during a closed three-day meeting of the parliamentary group, is quite outspoken in its criticism of the current housing policy in Berlin.
There is no better tenant protection than an adequate housing supply, the resolution states. “Not all of Berlin’s governing officials have sufficiently embraced this task and made it their business.” The criticism is most likely levelled against Katrin Lompscher (The Left), who serves as Berlin’s Senator for Urban Development and as such bears the chief responsibility for the city’s housing policy.3
The resolution criticises the lack of cooperation between the housing industry and the body politic above all. “Private housing companies account for 90 percent of new developments in Berlin today,” the Social Democrat delegates wrote. “To focus the state policy solely on public-sector companies would fail to live up to events on the ground and the necessities of future housing construction.” He added that the situation therefore requires “a reliable partnership” between Senate and the private housing industry. The closed meeting of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group that unanimously passed the resolution convened in Hamburg—perhaps Berlin’s Social Democrats sought to model their new approach on that city’s housing policy. For some years, a successful alliance between the private housing industry and the body politic has existed in Hamburg.4
Social Democrats Call for More Infill Densification
Another demand raised by the Social Democrat members of the city council is that civic participation should not be taken too far and reach a point where it causes housing construction to stall. The resolution explicitly states “that the common good principally take precedence over individual interests. Housing construction by privately owned businesses must not be disparaged as serving private interests.” On top of that, the Social Democrats want planning permit procedures to be accelerated and simplified. The Social Democrats also demand a more liberal handling of infill densification projects: “More consistent and swifter use should be made of inner-city sites with infill potential and with sound infrastructure and transport links already in place.”The implementation of the Social Democrats’ demands would imply a radical shift in Berlin’s housing policy. It remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats will be able to convince their coalition partners of the Greens and The Left of this reorientation. Lord Mayor Müller intends in any case to expand his right to intervene in the housing policy: The Social Democrat parliamentary group’s recommendation to the Senate is to set up a steering group headed by Müller.