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Expert opinion: Berlins housing policy not in accordance with state constitution

The highly on tenants focused housing policy of Berlin’s senate conflicts with the mission statement of the state constitution.  That’s the conclusion of a legal opinion of Prof. Dr. jur. Steffen Hindelang from the Freie Universtität Berlin on behalf of the Verein zur Förderung von Wohneigentum in Berlin.1 Hindenlang examined Art. 28 Abs. 1 of Berlin’s constitution (VvB) where it says: „Every human has the right of appropriate living space. The state supports the creation and conservation of appropriate living space, especially for people with low incomes, as well as the development of residential property.”

Berlin hinders the formation of ownership

The explicit mention of residential property is a local characteristic of Berlin’s state constitution. According to the expert opinion supporting residential property is equal to supporting affordable living. “Housing promotion disregarding Residential property promotion is from Berlin’s Constitution under complex”, states the expert opinion. This means that the legislators have to include the support of residential property into their trend-setting decisions. Expert Hindelang concludes while regarding the political decisions of Berlin’s senate that the state government is currently not violating the constitution. “But the senate and the House of Representatives don’t circle the mission statement of the constitution.”

The association Verein zur Förderung von Wohneigentum that commissioned the expert opinion supports the view that the red-red-green Berlin senate is disregarding its own constitution.  During the presentation of the expert opinion association chairman Jacopo Mingazzini named some political measures and trend-setting decisions of past years where Berlins politics not supported but also prevented the development of residential property. The ban of converting apartments and the expulsion of environmental protection areas ensure the shortage of offers in lower-price portfolios. Private households are therefore not able to afford living space under favorable conditions. Berlin’s land transfer tax, that has been raised a few times in the past ten years and is currently at 6 percent, has significantly increased the purchasing costs for private buyers.

State government has to take regard on residential-buyers

Even the German daily paper Tagesspiegel concludes in a longer article about the expert opinion of Professor Hindelang, that there are almost no examples of supports of residential ownership. 2 An inquiry of the investment bank Berlin IBB therefore resulted that in 2016 in the million metropolis Berlin only 64 grant agreements for building, rehabilitation or rather modernization of private homes were completed.

Considering such low support numbers the Verein zur Förderung von Wohneigentum demands that the state government expands its politics onto the needs of potential residential-buyers. Even Expert Hindelang concludes in the Tagespiegel: “It won’t work, if the state is postponing the support for residential-buyers indefinitely.