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德国柏林房租飙升 设租金上限是否有效?

更新时间:2019/3/20 22:01:35 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Berlin's radical plan to stop rocketing rents
德国柏林房租飙升 设租金上限是否有效?

A former mayor of Germany’s vibrant capital city once referred to Berlin as “poor but sexy” – a slogan reflecting the comparatively low cost of living.


These days, however, one need only try searching for an affordable apartment to discover that the “poor” part of that identity is rapidly changing. An influx of new people, like students looking for a cheaper study destination and young professionals attracted by the strong job market, has helped make Berlin one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the world and contributed to rapid increases in rent prices.


According to a recent study from the real estate portal Immowelt, monthly rents in Berlin have more than doubled in the last 10 years alone: from 5.60 euros (£4.90, $6.40) per sq m in 2008 to 11.40 euros in 2018. Though overall rents remain lower than in other major German cities like Munich or Frankfurt, that’s an increase of 103%, higher than anywhere else in the country. Rent prices vary greatly based on neighbourhood, but 2017 statistics show that a one-bedroom apartment in some of the city’s more desirable neighborhoods can average upwards of 1,000 euros per month.


Rising cost of living concerns aren’t unique to Berlin, of course; major cities around the world are struggling with the same trends. But a group of local politicians here have proposed a radical idea to tackle the problem: introducing a rent cap that would freeze all existing rents for the next five years.


"Until six or seven years ago, Berlin had much lower rents,” Julian Zado, deputy head of the Berlin Social Democrats and one of those suggesting the change, told BBC Capital. “Many young people – like me – came to Berlin because apartments cost half of what they would in Frankfurt or Munich, for example. What's unique to Berlin is just how quickly that changed."

柏林社会民主党(Berlin Social Democrats)副主席扎多(Julian Zado)也是提议设置租金上限的政客之一。他在接受英国广播公司财经频道(BBC Capital)采访时说, “六、七年前,柏林的房租还很低,许多年轻人,比如我,来到柏林,是因为这里的公寓租金只有法兰克福或慕尼黑的一半。這正是柏林的独特之处,但已迅速改变了。”

Germany typically handles its housing policy on the national level. But after a local lawyer argued it should be legally possible for states to implement their own housing regulations, politicians in Berlin’s centre-left Social Democrats jumped on the possibility and proposed their plans for a Mietendeckel, or rent cap.


Playing catch-up


The idea behind the proposal is that, while new housing is being built to satisfy the increased demand here, it will be years before those apartments are actually available. By freezing existing rents for five years, Zado said, the city could help prevent massive increases until an influx of new apartments stabilises the market. Ideally, he and his colleagues want this measure – combined with others – to bring down the average rent to about 6-7 euros (£5.20-£6.10) per sq m (as opposed to the current 11.40 euros).


"Every year, tens of thousands of people move to Berlin, because it's a very attractive city – and as a result, we know the problem will only become more glaring,” Zado continued. “More people are coming faster than new apartments are built."


In the last decade, Berlin’s population has grown by hundreds of thousands: it is currently home to more than 3.7 million people, according to government statistics, compared with just under 3.4 million in late 2008. Estimates from the Berlin Senate say this growth will only accelerate, projecting the city will pass the four-million mark by 2025.


Combine that with the fact that the vast majority of Berliners – approximately 85% – rent their homes or flats, rather than own them, and it becomes the perfect storm for affordable housing. Some of these apartments are state-owned social housing; others are owned by a combination of large private rental companies and smaller-scale landlords.


Ask any newer Berlin resident and they’ll likely have an apartment-hunting story of their own to tell. Gabriella Linardi, a 26-year-old working in the technology industry, moved to Berlin from the United States two years ago and took over the lease on a flat-share that currently costs about 300 euros (£260) per month. Her fiancé Max, a 29-year-old German also working in tech, has lived longer in the city and currently pays about the same.

随便问一下柏林的新居民,他们可能都有自己找房子的故事要讲。26岁的琳纳蒂(Gabriella Linardi)在科技行业工作,两年前从美国搬到柏林,与人合租了一套公寓,目前每月租金约300欧元。她的未婚夫马克斯(Max)今年29岁,是德国人,也在科技行业工作,他在柏林居住的时间更长,两人目前房租的开销是一样的。

The two are looking to move in together – but even though they’re willing to spend more than double their current rents on a new flat, they’ve had no luck so far finding one. Disappointed by the prices and options when they first started searching, Linardi says: “What we’re looking for, even though we already doubled our budget, is basically a place that is not an upgrade from where we’re living right now – and ever further out from the centre.”


Germany has taken nationwide action in recent years to begin grappling with this problem: in 2015, parliament passed a law restricting how much landlords could raise rents. Under that legislation, the rental price on a new contract should be no more than 10% higher than the average price in that particular neighbourhood.


Politicians and experts on housing policy say that the law, however, doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting renters. Reiner Wild, head of the Berlin Tenants’ Association, told BBC Capital that it had too many exceptions – and that landlords sometimes choose to ignore it. What’s more, tenants often don’t want to pursue legal action against landlords when it’s hard enough to find a suitable flat.

然而,政客和住房政策专家说,这项法律在保护租房者方面远远不够。柏林租户协会(Berlin Tenants' Association)主席维尔德(Reiner Wild)接受英国广播公司财经频道采访时说,该项法律有太多免责条款,房东有时会选择视而不见。更重要的是,由于要找到合适的房子很困难,租户往往不愿对房东采取法律行动。

“[The law has] helped numerous tenants but has not had a sustained effect on the rent levels,” Wild said.


What’s the catch?


Introducing a rent cap, even if temporary, could provide relief to those struggling to keep up with living costs in Berlin – but there could also be significant downsides. Such a policy could exacerbate the city’s existing housing shortage: some experts say it might lead developers to seek buyers, not renters, for their new apartments.


"There is a lack of housing in Berlin,” said Michael Voigtländer of the German Economic Institute in Cologne. “That lack of housing won't be solved if the rents are capped."

位于科隆(Cologne)的德国经济研究所(German Economic Institute)的福伦达(Michael Voigtländer)说,“柏林缺乏住房。如果租金受到限制,缺乏住房的问题将更难得到解决。”

Axel Gedaschko, head of the German Housing Industry association, told German newspaper Die Zeit it could even keep developers from building additional housing in the coming years: “A rent stop would lead to our member companies building about 50,000 fewer apartments in the next five years,” he said.

德国住宅行业协会(German Housing Industry Association)主席格达什科(Axel Gedaschko)对德国报纸《时代周报》(Die Zeit)表示,该政策甚至可能阻止开发商在未来几年建造更多住宅。他说。“禁止租金上涨可能导致我们的会员公司在未来5年内少建5万套公寓。”

What’s more, if landlords know they can’t increase their profits in the next five years, they could opt to postpone any upgrades or maintenance in the meantime.


“If landlords don’t have an incentive to reinvest money into their property because rents are frozen, you might see a reduction in housing quality through a lack of maintenance,” said Corianne Scally, an affordable housing expert with the Urban Institute in the United States.

美国城市研究所(Urban Institute)的经济适用房专家斯卡利(Corinanne Scally)说,“如果房东因为租金冻结而没有动力把钱再投资到他们的房产上,你可能会看到房屋质量由于缺乏维护而下降。”

It’s still early days for the proposal. First local politicians are determining whether it’s legally permissible for Berlin to implement its own housing policy. Assuming legal experts did approve this, the suggestion would then be discussed by local politicians, housing policy experts and others to draft legislation and figure out how the law would actually work in practice.


And meanwhile, some Berlin residents are seeking to keep rent prices down with another strategy: by starting a formal petition calling for the city to break up rental companies that own more than 3,000 flats. (One company, Deutsche Wohnen, owns approximately 115,000 across the city.) That petition has until early April to gather signatures, in the hopes of forcing the government to take up the issue.

与此同时,一些柏林居民正试图用另一种策略来压低房租:他们发起一项正式请愿,呼吁柏林分拆那些持有公寓数量多于3000套的租赁公司。(其中一家公司德意志住宅(Deutsche Wohnen)在全市拥有大约11.5万套公寓。)这份请愿书收集签名到4月初,希望能迫使政府着手解决这个问题。

Should such a rent cap policy be implemented, local politicians say it would be somewhat revolutionary – and a potential example for other cities facing cost-of-living problems. Hamburg, too, is also beginning to look at implementing some sort of rent cap.


“Such an idea has never existed before in Germany,” said Katrin Schmidberger, a representative in Berlin’s city legislature from the Greens and her party’s spokesperson on housing policy. “On the question of whether this is possible or not, we’re entering new territory legally and politically.”

柏林市绿党(The Greens)立法机构代表、该党住房政策发言人施米德伯格(Katrin Schmidberger)说,“这样的想法在德国从未有过。就是否可行而言,在法律和政治层面上我们都在进入一个新的领域。”