Why can’t I find a cheap flat in Neukölln, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg? Shituationist Berlin De-Mystification Service Series #1


Illustration: A “carloft”, an architectural approach to organise living in one of the poorest areas of Germany in the middle of Kreuzberg that is at the same time a hip spot and which enables one to take their precious car up away from the rough streets.

In case you wondered why it is so hard to find a flat in Berlin, isn’t it supposed to be cool AND crazy AND cheap? Short explanation, it’s capitalisation, the Berlin myth is a collectively produced marketing sheme that is programmed to go out of hands. Our special brand of gentrification, where there is not even much development, but rather speculation on ruins, and the poor and precarious living in these ruins are made the advertising agents of this, by working in a 24hrs kiosk, or food delivery, or from home.
But on a local political level there is maybe some more to say. Berlin has really weak laws on rent regulation. The landlords can very well make it rise with small renovations everytime the tenant changes. Since some years this increasingly has become the business model for the inner city which has a high popularity for both people from cities that are used to higher rents and high income people who like this ruined city for its cultural appeal. That means really bad prices on the open market especially for singles with social mobility and couples, those who need relatively much space in comparison to groups of people sharing a flat – plus they need a new flat once the first child arrives. Flat sharing is done on a more hidden market, people use their network of friends etc. in order to keep the competition and the prices down. Also people seem to start to avoid changing contracts so much and rather find a friend to move in on the old contract to keep it low. And here we are only talking about the normal rent market, two other factors are the transformation of homes in the inner city into semi-legal hostels and the breaking up of houses into private property flats while before more houses were on sale. And there are the investors who want to shake up the structure of berlin and reach a situation like in other metropolies where poor people cannot afford to live in the city center. This german documentary trailer features some of the developers in their own words (in english):

This has been a development well since the 90s when the former socialist part of the city was integrated in the capitalisation of housing space, but in recent years there seems to have been a tipping point as investment is closing in on the inner city, it has to get rid of the production centers of the Berlin myth, of all the niches and disorderly spaces. Plus some of the most poor areas in whole Germany are where the wall used to be, in the middle of Kreuzberg, around Kotti. This is at the same time a very hip area, where now you have for example little fortresses where you can buy a flat with your own parking space inside the flat and a lift for your precious car. People move in there and wait for the capitalist city development cycle to get rid of the poor around them.
There are various movements and organisations that protest and document these changes, like:

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