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Citizen participation is a growing barrier during construction projects

Berlins housing sector warns that stricter regulations due to citizen participation could lead to debilitating effects in the construction of new buildings.  Industry representatives expressed their concerns in a recent Tagesspiegel article.1 The reason for the concern is a participation guideline that a committee is preparing for the senate administration for urban development and that should be releasing in autumn 2018. The housing sector is not involved in the committee, criticizes the representative manager of the Federal association of the private real estate industry (BFW) Berlin/Brandenburg, Bern Strehlow. It is to be feared that the guideline for citizen participation will make the approval procedures in the future even harder.

State-owned housing associations criticize building senator

State-owned housing associations already warned in September in a letter directed to building senator Katrin Lompscher (LEFT party).2 It is stated that, ‘due to the political prioritization and public relations about the topic ‘participation’ each construction project motivates indirect or direct parties involved to question or prevent those projects.’ It can be noticed that since a few months massive contradictions and legal actions are faced against already granted building permits. This leads to foreseeable delays and substantial additional costs. The state-owned housing associations wish that Lompscher ‘doesn’t count too much on the interests of individuals or minorities within participation acts on district- as well as on national level.

The building rights expert Ulrich Battis recognizes similar developments. In an interview he states, that what currently is happening in Berlin is ‘a classy Nimby – not in my back yard. Densification, with pleasure, but only at a place, where one does not live itself.’3 According to Battis the current politic of Berlin encourages storm of protests and contradictions from residents, are often times indulged. As warning example Battis names the skyscraper that the housing association Berlin Mitte (WBM) wanted to construct on the fisher island.4 Citizens collected about 1 000 signatures against the new building whereby the project, even though it already had the construction permit, failed. Battis calls the case ‘a capitulation to individuals interests’ and forewarns from ‘a complete undesirable development’.

Companies lament defective cooperation

Cases like the one mentioned lead to growing worries in Berlin’s construction industry, as the current housing market barometer of the investment bank Berlin (IBB) states.5 Questioned housing associations face compared to last year more and more acceptance problems. The resistance against new construction projects is seen as an increasing barrier – as well as ‘lack of cooperation between private and public parties.’