The German capital Berlin has just decided to stop rising rents for five years from 2020 in an effort to stem a growing trend of gentrification in the city.
Once described as 'poor, but sexy', Berlin has seen its housing costs double over the last decade as employees lured by the strong job market
move into the city.
The sharp rent hikes have led some residents to ponder radical solutions, including pushing for the seizure of housing stock from powerful
Alarmed by the trend, Berlin's city government agreed Tuesday on the outlines of a draft law that would include a temporary freeze on rents for
five years from 2020, with a bill now to be drafted.
For decades after German unification in 1990, the capital was a magnet for artists, musicians and students drawn by housing far cheaper than in
other major European cities - partly the legacy of its decades marooned inside East Germany as a mere satellite of the West's economy.
But around 40,000 people a year have moved to Berlin in the last decade, and rents have more than doubled since 2008, according to a study by
the online housing portal immowelt.de. A record influx of refugees in 2015 has not helped, experts say.
Some 85 percent of Berliners rent their homes rather than owning them. Proposals to help them had ranged from expropriating large property
owners to speeding up affordable housing projects.
The cap means 'protection against rent increases for 1.5 million apartments,' tweeted the Berlin government's department for urban development
Under the plan, landlords who seek to raise rates because of renovation work will also have to seek official approval for any increases above
50 cents per square meter.
Only social housing and private property that has not been let out would be exempt.
The move is being closely watched across Germany, where a backlash is growing over fears that residents are being priced out of key cities.
In an indication that the Berlin example could snowball into something wider, the SPD, has pledged to champion such rent controls nationwide.
'We need a rent price cap for all of Germany,' said Thorsten Schaefer-Guembel, one of the three interim SPD leaders.
He argued that the measure would help 'win time to build, build and build'.
Merkel herself has voiced skepticism about such caps, warning that 'we must also provide an environment for people to want to build'.
'It must remain advantageous and attractive to invest in residential property.'
While the political climate in Berlin is turning against landlords, the influential property-owners association Haus und Grund has said it
would not be cowed.
尽管德国的政治气候不利于业主，但颇具影响力的业主联合会Haus und Grund表示他们不会受胁迫。
In a clear call for pre-emptive action, the association had urged members to raise rents by Monday night (June 17).
Although there are still huge swathes of unbuilt land and new construction mushrooming across the city, much of what is coming onto the market
is out of reach for low-income locals.
The rates in Berlin are still below those in key capitals around the world.
However, average rent prices in Berlin have pushed past 10 euros per square meter per month, according to a recent study by a real estate group
CBRE Berlin and German mortgage bank Berlin Hyp AG.
但是，根据房地产集团CBRE Berlin和德国抵押贷款银行Berlin Hyp AG近日发布的一项研究报告，柏林的平均房租已经超过了每月10欧元每平米。
The rental freeze debate comes as residents are trying to seize the initiative by pushing for a referendum to seize buildings from landlords
with more than 3,000 apartments.
On Friday, the initiators of the citizens' vote said they had cleared the first hurdle by obtaining 77,001 signatures - more than three times
higher than the 20,000 needed to launch such a referendum.
For the Tagesspiegel newspaper, the trend of runaway rents and growing revolt grew out of from the government's failure to tackle the problem.
'If the rental cap splits the government, then that's something that it brought upon itself: because for far too long, far too little has been
built. But the call for new construction alone won't help.'