Gentrification and Yuppification in Berlin

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Regarding the 50% rent increases. I agree that it's obscene. And actually there are normally systems in place to prevent that. However, these increases are from previously rent-controlled houses, not just any apartment. A lot of them were built 20 years ago, just before the wall came down, by the city or with money from the city. One of the conditions was that rents had to be kept artificially low. Now, after 20 years, the rent control agreement has run out. The trouble is that a lot of these buildings housed people who are low income - which is why they qualified to live there in the first place. Now, after having paid "too little" (according to the market) for the last years, they get hit twice as hard. I've just been looking for an apartment to buy in Berlin and was shown a few of these properties. It always felt wrong to me and in the end I didn't buy any of them. Though I'd be lying if I said that that was only because of my social conscience.

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My friend moved out of Prenzlauer Berg last year, he had a very old contract with frozen rent, he paid around 200 EUR (kalt) for a 65m2 apartment, not that far from Kollwitzplatz. When he moved out he gave the apartment to a friend who is allowed to take over it and continue paying the same amount. I guess the landlord was not amused.

 

An a friend of my mother lives in Spandau not that far from the Rathaus, she is in her mid 80s and has been living in that apartment like forever. It is a 5 rooms apartment and she pays around 100 EUR rent. On top of that the apartment is trashed due to her being too old. I guess the landlord is just waiting until she passes away.

 

Old renting contracts were VERY unfair with the landlord.

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There are/were tons of quirky little storefronts that have nothing even resembling a business plan, no real action... They're the ones that get pushed out. Is this gentrification? Is it a bad thing? Should they be subsidized? Will they be missed?

 

Yes, of course they'll be missed. This is exactly what gentrification is. These local, quirky little businesses are what make a place like Berlin special. They should be subsidised, because they lend the city it's unmistakable, individual flair. What's the alternative? Fucking chain restaurants, stores and cafes. Same same everywhere. If you want KFC or a shit coffee at Starbucks, be my guest. But stay home. In your own crappy, boring home town, which was probably converted into a sterilised shopping mall (ala NYC) some time ago.

 

Save Berlin

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Horseshit.

 

The "Market" is, and always has been, manipulated by those with money to the disadvantage of those without.

 

Good point, keefy...I´m also interested - purely academically, of course, in the neutrality of rivers! Never had that in a political discussion before! ( the most defining moment in my political education was an old lady in Argentina who told me, at a time of rampant inflation there in the 1970s , that the " the price of potatoes is political! " ) Have never forgotten that - it made me think!

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Yup, as Van the Man used to say...

 

"You don't pull no punches,

But you don't push the river..."

 

The River makes its way from the Mountains to the Sea... it is a creation of Nature and, without intervention, cannot help itself.

 

"The Market" has been created by humans and is therefore nothing like a river.

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River Mountain High, keefy! Wasn´t that Tina Turner about 3,000 years ago in our youth? Help me out...what was the group? ( Disclaimer; just to stay on topic, cough, Tina Berlin! )

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Carpet baggers....

 

You can't stop progress or should I say folks with money that sniff a bargain and can turn a profit. The only real way to fight it is for someone like Beatrix Potter, who purchased 4,000 acres of the Lake Districts, to have the desire to preserve it.

 

However, does Berlin fall into the same category as some magnificant natural spot that needs protection? Isn't the vibrancy of a city defined by its changing state?

 

I have a feeling that the citizens of Berlin are too opiniated to go in for real change anyway. Have you ever tried to get an older lady to eat salty popcorn? It is almost like anarchy!

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The "Market" is, and always has been, manipulated by those with money to the disadvantage of those without.

Always? As in "without exceptions"? Bullshit.

 

Take us for example. 1st we got a vacant single-room front-of-house flat in the already gentrified (or should we say traditionally middle-class) Wilmersdorf quite cheaply, b/c you can occasionally hear some traffic noise in there. Then a couple of years later we bought the neighboring soon-to-be vacant flat as well, b/c the owner was moving in with his new BF (or husband, I dunno) and was therefore willing to sell cheaply just to get it off her hands. And now taken into account that 1) no poor people were evicted b/c the flats were already empty and 2) they're located in Wilmersdorf, which has always been posh / middle-class anyway and 3) we were lucky to get both below market value, who did we exploit exactly? Where's the manipulation? Who was disadvantaged?

 

Shit, you call THIS gentrification, I'll call me a fat-cat greedy capitalist gentrifier GLADLY.

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...but just to clarify my own position, no, I _don't_ think evicting people because you want to maximize profits is right. But then again you've gotta read what Krieg wrote above, and ask yourself would YOU be willing to be the landlord / lady in that situation? I wouldn't, I know that!

 

So what should the society do then? Socialize the housing stock á la GDR? Didn't work. Or how about the opposite then, i.e. dismantle all pro-tenant legislation (and Germany still _does_ have that, mind you) and let the market forces handle it? Wouldn't be fair, and wouldn't work for the common good, either, with it causing ghettoization, exclusion, etc. to the detriment of rich and poor alike.

 

So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. But what still stands is some locales being sought-after and demand sometimes exceeding supply there - and that's just the way it's always been. So what you gotta do then is to buy only vacant property, unless you want to tarnish yourself with the greedy-capitalist and / or gentrifier brush - and even moreso if you're an Ausländer, right?

 

So I dunno... a many-sided coin this, no?

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As someone living in Frankfurt/Main, where the going rate for city locations is around 12 €/sqm cold, I can only say: kids, you don't know how fortunate you are in Berlin. And when rents in Frankfurt are about the double, this doesn't mean that every shop assistant here also earns double than in Berlin. Oddly, there's a gentrification debate going on in Frankfurt as well, since there are also longstanding tenants who pay relatively low rents in upmarket neighbourhoods and fear luxury reconstruction of their houses.

 

Despite increases in rents, especially for apartments that are on the market, the tenant is protected by German law. First, when a rental apartment building is sold to be converted into single property units (Umwandlung), the new owner can basically only evict the tenant on grounds of needing the apartment for himself or close family members, and this at the earliest 3 years after purchase. In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Pankow, the limit has been extended to 7 years. See Berlin.de, Berliner Mietfibel. Of course it's tough when you're living in a house that was sold and the whole place is converted in a construction site, but it's possible to stick it out. After renovation, the new owner has the right to increase the rent within certain limits, but the tenant benefits from modernisation, too (e.g. better insulation, lower heating costs).

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Yes, of course they'll be missed. This is exactly what gentrification is. These local, quirky little businesses are what make a place like Berlin special. They should be subsidised, because they lend the city it's unmistakable, individual flair. What's the alternative? Fucking chain restaurants, stores and cafes. Same same everywhere. If you want KFC or a shit coffee at Starbucks, be my guest. But stay home. In your own crappy, boring home town, which was probably converted into a sterilised shopping mall (ala NYC) some time ago.

 

Save Berlin

 

@Rockfisher: You appear to be angered by something I said. Sorry, but I'm quite certain you don't know squat from apple butter about my hometown. And I'll wager, about as much about coffee or business. Here's a refresher for you:

 

A business functions to earn profit through providing something of value via the market. Those who can't make that happen either need to find another method of applying their vision of the world or they need to change their game.

 

Before you jump to further asinine conclusions about my roots or gentrification, answer this.

 

How many of these little 'shops' have functioning, up-to-date websites where people can buy online with just a couple of clicks? How many of them are out beating the pavement every day in order to compete with those who are? How many are investing uncounted hours of blood, sweat and tears into their clearly-defined business objectives? Which of them have even bothered to write on a sign on the window stating what it is that they are actually providing? How many are integrated into a world that extends more than six inces away from their nose?

 

It's pretty clear to see which ones are doing it and which ones aren't. There's a mix of them all over Kreuzberg and many will survive and prosper and remain quirky, without any subsidization. Those who can't, well they will go. Some might be missed, many will likely play the victim of gentrification. But life goes on, and Berlin's got plenty more quirks to offer.

 

Sorry mister, but that's how we roll in these times. Life's a bitch. The first step for these precious little gems to survive is to to wake up and smell the Starbucks.

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But stay home. In your own crappy, boring home town, which was probably converted into a sterilised shopping mall (ala NYC) some time ago.

 

What bizzare world do you live in where NYC is a "sterlised shopping mall".

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Oddly, there's a gentrification debate going on in Frankfurt as well, since there are also longstanding tenants who pay relatively low rents in upmarket neighbourhoods and fear luxury reconstruction of their houses.

 

Indeed. But not "oddly". That's the point. All of Germany's sought-after places seem to be gentrifying right now. It's happening really, really fast in the places a certain ilk (the educated / aspirational types of a certain class in certain fields) want to live right now. Certainly happening big time in nearby Darmstadt as well. I can literally see the changes happening pretty much weekly at the moment. Germany suddenly looks a very, very different place culturally from when I arrived in 2006. (It's probably even a global thing - being in the "right" area with your peer group is a way of setting yourself apart from the plebs who can't afford to buy in and thus also giving your beter social contacts etc - "social capital").

 

I don't really get the point about small shops. One of the best features of London and NY et al is that the places are packed with successful delis and food stores, furniture stores, galleries, independent markets and so on. They co-exist quite happily alongside the chains and the big shopping drags. But - of course - the only reason they can be there is that there is a wealthy, high-earning populace to buy the stuff. You can admire "quirky little busineses" all you like but the owners can't feed themselves on your admiration or self-actualising "aren't I lucky to live in a place that has you" lines. You have to buy.

 

My street has a Starbucks but I doubt it is many people's "regular" (certainly not mine). There are also plenty of other independent coffee shops and national chains close by that are often heaving. They thrive because people have money to spend in them.

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A lot of Germans (even former DDR citizens) see the rising rental tide as a good sign for Berlin, that the city is finally moving on and taking up its rightful place as the capital of the largest economy of the EU. They are a lot more pragmatic than some of the idealists on here give them credit for in fact. I think it is indeed mostly wasters who expect to live off the physical and mental effort of the work done by others who have a huge problem with Berlin's lot improving. My boss is an entrepreneur, I hope his business goes from strength to strength because that will have a direct knock on effect for me. I don't begrudge him his increasing wealth one iota. I think there's simply a lot of begrudgery coming into play here. Berlin was once an actual industrial city, wasn't always a retreat for those suffering from a sticky mattress.

 

The housing estates in the east aren't half as bad as they are portrayed on here either. I had my dinner in a flat in Hellersdorf (as I do most weekends) last night. The flats are far better maintained by the landlords than a lot of the Altbau sh!te inside the ring, they are clean, warm and efficient to heat. They have far better public transport than your average British or Irish high rise equivalent and they are NOT infested with heroin addicts shooting up in the stairwells. They look very superficially like UK estates but societally are completely different IMO.

 

Many residents would not move from their flats in the eastern suburbs to Prenzlauer Berg or Kreuzberg if you ordered them to at gunpoint.

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Carpet baggers....You can't stop progress or should I say folks with money that sniff a bargain and can turn a profit. The only real way to fight it is for someone like Beatrix Potter, who purchased 4,000 acres of the Lake Districts, to have the desire to preserve it.However, does Berlin fall into the same category as some magnificant natural spot that needs protection? Isn't the vibrancy of a city defined by its changing state? I have a feeling that the citizens of Berlin are too opiniated to go in for real change anyway. Have you ever tried to get an older lady to eat salty popcorn? It is almost like anarchy!

 

Define "progress". Sure there always has been and always will be change, but that doesn't make it progress... or progress for everyone.

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Yes, of course they'll be missed. This is exactly what gentrification is. These local, quirky little businesses are what make a place like Berlin special. They should be subsidised, because they lend the city it's unmistakable, individual flair. What's the alternative? Fucking chain restaurants, stores and cafes. Same same everywhere. If you want KFC or a shit coffee at Starbucks, be my guest. But stay home. In your own crappy, boring home town, which was probably converted into a sterilised shopping mall (ala NYC) some time ago.Save Berlin

 

These quirky little businesses will have to adapt like everyone else then won't they? It is business after all not a charity they're running. I think what you'll find is that most of the crap-stores selling fleamarket grade 'vintage' clothing and bad 1960's house clearance wares will go out of business only leaving a few, which will make way for quality boutiques and independent, business-minded designers. You'll still be able to get the crap-ware, but it'll be on the fleamarkets as it should be.

 

Maybe this is an accurate description of this 'sterilised' world you talk about, personally I think it's progress.

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These quirky little businesses will have to adapt like everyone else then won't they? It is business after all not a charity they're running. I think what you'll find is that most of the crap-stores selling fleamarket grade 'vintage' clothing and bad 1960's house clearance wares will go out of business only leaving a few, which will make way for quality boutiques and independent, business-minded designers. You'll still be able to get the crap-ware, but it'll be on the fleamarkets as it should be.

 

Maybe this is an accurate description of this 'sterilised' world you talk about, personally I think it's progress.

 

Problem is, it's still sterile.

 

I saw this happen in Dublin in the late nineties. We had four good book shops in the town I lived in at one point, now we have one. An Irish chain store brand. And it's not even all that good even by their standards.

 

Same seems to be happening with Starbucks and coffee shops. Yes, it is business, and it may be a good thing, but you can have too much of a good thing.

 

I think the more "quirky" places just need to adapt and be more creative rather than sitting back and moaning about it. Some places like vokus and clothes swap stores DO actually act almost as charities, and it's because of this that they'll survive. Ever been to B-kage in Neukolln on a Wednesday night? Also, people who moan about the gentrification need to get up off their arses and support the places they like. Don't smuggle in your 60c Sterni - pay the one euro at the bar and support the bloody place!

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We had four good book shops in the town I lived in at one point, now we have one.

No worries in Berlin though of course. The good citizens far prefer "quirky" small booksellers and in no way decide on price or product range like mere consumer plebs do. Just as they never ever order anything off the internet either and particularly not off amazon.

 

It's funny but I don't see this "sterility". Travelling in three other major eastern European cities recently and several western ones on top, sure you see a lot of the same global names now but there were also any number of viable alternatives if you wanted them. That's exactly how the big cities work.

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