The housing trap: how can Berlin avoid following in London’s pricey footsteps?

The housing trap: how can Berlin avoid following in London's pricey footsteps?
Berlin’s fashionable Mitte district

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The housing trap: how can berlin avoid following in london's pricey footsteps?
Berlin’s fashionable Mitte district

Though comparatively cheap next to London’s astronomical living costs, Berlin’s rental prices are rising rapidly. What does this mean for the native Berliners and ex-Londoners who rely on its reasonable housing market?

When speaking to former Londoners who have made the move to Germany’s capital, one comparison keeps cropping up: living in Berlin feels like East London did more than a decade ago, before Shoreditch was polished and Hackney became unaffordable.

Amid the steady influx of Brits moving to Berlin (the current total is nearing 14,000), there is a growing bond between these two capital cities. Foodie events by former Londoners are becoming increasingly popular in Berlin, a new LSE Cities report highlights the cities’ shared (and growing) preference for cycling and walking over car ownership and Berlin is now said to be rivalling London as Europe’s startup capital.

But on one matter, Berlin is clearly concerned about any comparisons made between the two cities: housing. Indeed, the manager of the Berlin Tenants’ Association, Reiner Wild, told the Guardian recently that the city’s new rent cap was put in place precisely because “we don’t want a situation like in London”.

Ruth Barry has been living in Berlin for just under a year, after becoming increasingly frustrated in London. In Berlin, she’s able to focus on her business full-time, making a larger profit that she did in Britain. “London makes you work for your place there,” she says. “If you don’t make it, someone else will take that place.”

While Londoners are living in an ever-expanding bubble of housing-price stress (in the first half of 2014, nearly 60,000 Londoners in their 30s left the city: the highest number since 2008), one still hears a lot about Berlin being comparatively cheap. Unusually for a national capital, the cost of living in Berling is still lower than in seven other major German cities, including Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Yet Berlin’s rental prices are now rising at nearly twice the national average rate. []


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