Berliners protest striking down of rent cap law by constitutional court

Housing rights groups and activists took to the streets after Germany’s constitutional court struck down a law passed by the Berlin State government freezing rents at June 2019 levels for five years

April 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Berliners protest the striking down of a law on rent caps. Photo: Beyond Europe/Twitter

Housing rights groups and activists on Thursday, April 15 protested the scrapping of a law on rent caps in Berlin by Germany’s Constitutional Court. The rent cap law enacted by the Red-Red-Green coalition government in Berlin led by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP), Die Linke (The Left) and the Greens called for rent freezes at the June 2019 level for 90% of Berlin’s apartments for five years. The law was opposed by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and was challenged in the constitutional court. The court ruled that the Berlin State government could not impose its own law  in the German capital while the federal government in the country has its regulations to control the rents. Protesting the verdict, tenants’ rights groups organized a massive demo in Berlin on Thursday.

Residents of major cities across Europe have been struggling to cope up with hikes in rents and skyrocketing property prices. In Germany, Berliners face an acute housing crisis and tenant rights’ groups have been campaigning to regulate rents and to control the burgeoning real estate mafia. As per reports, rents in the city have increased by 60% since 2011. It was in this situation that the State government in Berlin passed the rent cap bill on January 30, 2020.

The Berlin Tenants Association, Berliner Mieterverein, condemned the constitutional court’s ruling, saying that the law had already begun to have an impact on rents in the city.  The group demanded that the Berlin State government continue its efforts to control rents, and also stated that they will now intensify a campaign for a federal-level law to impose rent caps across Germany.

The Berlin faction of the Die Linke (The Left) said the cap was an “act of self-defense” against steep rents and added that it was a pioneering step. The faction said that efforts would continue to ensure an affordable Berlin for all and that “verdict from the court does not change the direction of our tenancy policy by one millimeter.”

“CDU, FDP and the real estate lobby have shown whose interests they represent and consistently attacked the rent cover on all levels”, added the Berlin Left. The central leadership of the Die Linke stated that “If the states are not allowed to make a rent cover, then the federal government has to do so.”

The cadres of the German Communist Party (DKP) also participated in the mobilization on Thursday protesting the scrapping of the rent cap law and also called for the expropriation of housing corporations without compensation.

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