Brussels (Brussels Morning) Some 2,500 Berlin residents marched through the city on Sunday, protesting against unbearable rent prices and the recent Constitutional Court decision which overturned a price-control measure introduced by the local government, Deutsche Welle reported.
The peaceful protest was held under the slogan “Stop the rent madness!”. Protesters carried banners proclaiming “To reside is a human right”, and demanding “No interest on rents”. A separate protest by some 30 boat owners held on the Spree river in Berlin also displayed banners condemning the rising rent prices.
According to the German Property Foundation, the rents for new leases in Berlin soared 27% between 2013 and 2019, reflecting the fact that the city was attracting more and more German and international residents, which had pushed demand up and far outstripped the availability of rental units.
Acting to preserve the traditional affordability of living in Berlin, and fearing that rising rents would lead to gentrification of the city, the local government – a coalition of Socialists, Greens and The Left – introduced a rent freeze in 2019.
The city measure mandated that rents for 90% of apartments must remain at their June 2019 level and prevented any new rental agreements from going above that. In addition, the city mandated that current rents exceeding the limit would have to be gradually reduced to comply.
However, the Federal Constitutional Court overturned the City’s measure in mid-April this year, after ruling that the Berlin government cannot introduce a law that would regulate a matter already regulated at a federal level. A so-called “rent brake”, introduced in 2015 by the federal government, was interpreted as a superseding law, despite its insufficient impact on the Berlin rent prices.
The Constitutional Court ruling means that many tenants in Berlin could now not only face fresh rent hikes, but also become liable to reimburse the difference to their landlords, based on what they would have been paying had the City not introduced its measure.