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Left party urges Germany-wide rent control

August 27, 2019

The Left's Bundestag leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, has proposed a nationwide rent cap for Germany. Berlin's urban development minister has already proposed capping monthly rates at €7.97 per square meter in the capital.

Berlin protests against predatory housing costs
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

Building on plans by municipal-level party mates in Berlin, Left Bundestag leader Sahra Wagenknecht proposed a nationwide rent cap in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung published Tuesday.

She said the federal government's plans to temporarily freeze rents in Germany were "ineffective."

It is "insufferable that the grand coalition has spent years looking in the other direction as real estate companies push the rents up to offer their investors dream returns while families with normal incomes are forced from the centers of major cities," Wagenknecht said.

Berlin's allotment gardens

Berlin Urban Development Minister Katrin Lompscher, also of the Left, has proposed capping rents on flats built through 2013. Rents would be charged according to type of building rather than location.

The proposal would allow a base maximum of €3.42 per square meter ($0.35/square foot) for many units. Rents in GDR-era prefab buildings would stop at €5.64 per square meter. Meanwhile, coveted pre-1918 structures could cost €6.03, and apartments built in the German Reunification period from 1991 to 2013 could cost a maximum of €7.97 per square meter. Structures built after 2014 would be exempted.

Read more: Germany's biggest landlord threatens Berlin rent cap backlash

"This is exactly what Berlin needs now," Left Party leader Katja Kipping said. "For years, we have experienced how rent sharks have forced tenants from the city centers."

Read more: Berlin loses local culture to yuppies

Opposition within coalition

Residents have increasingly taken to the streets to protest predatory housing companies in Berlin (pictured), where the Left shares power in the city-state government with the Greens and Social Democrats. Nevertheless, the city's mayor Michael Müller has distanced himself from his own urban development minister's proposal.

Read more: Berlin tenants fight to save their homes from new buyers

"It is important to me that the renters can be assured of a legal rent cap and that we find solutions through undertakings for the common good so that the task of creating and securing affordable living space can be accomplished," Müller, a Social Democrat, said during a trip to China on Monday.

Read more: Could Germany see a new left-wing coalition in government?

The Greens have also proved lukewarm to the proposal. The opposition Free Democrats, who espouse a laissez-faire approach to the costs of living, have suggested that they might challenge the constitutionality of a rent cap in Berlin.

Other measures taken by Berlin's city-state government to put an end to the rapidly increasing unaffordability of the nation's capital include a five-year freeze on rental rates adopted in June.

mkg/rc (AFP, dpa)

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