The tenants can hardly be helped

The old rent brake did not help – it is now being tightened. But there is little to suggest that living space in coveted cities will finally become affordable. The problem is far too big for that.

Nice, new and expensive: Newly built apartment buildings in the Europaviertel near the Frankfurt exhibition center.

Dhe problem is already several years old, but nothing and no one has been able to change much about it: rents in Germany are rising rapidly. Tabloids speak martially of a “rental price explosion”. Of course not across the board, because houses and apartments are empty in Lausitz and Schneeeifel, for example. Some properties do not even find a new owner when they are sold for free because nobody wants to bear the maintenance and renovation costs.

In the coveted cities and metropolitan regions of Germany, exactly the opposite is true: If an apartment becomes vacant, the broker can act like a king. Because even for mediocre apartments dozens of people stand in line. It is only too understandable that the owners of such apartments are continuously increasing their rents. Who would do otherwise?

More than double inflation

The consequences are abundantly clear: while the rent for a newly advertised apartment in Berlin was € 5.60 per square meter in the first half of 2008, it is currently twice as much (€ 11.40). In Munich, prices have risen by 61 percent to EUR 17.90 in the past ten years, in Frankfurt by 42 percent to EUR 13.80 and in Düsseldorf by 36 percent to EUR 10.20.

A few days ago, the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced that asking rents recently rose more than twice as fast as general inflation on a national average. Accordingly, new rents in the second quarter of 2018 were 5.3 percent higher than a year earlier. In contrast, consumer prices rose by just two percent.

The anger of many tenants (and voters) is so great that the subject of “affordable housing” has long been a high priority in the federal government. In good time before the state elections in Bavaria, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) invited representatives of the real estate industry to a “residential summit” on September 21. It should be the culmination of countless smaller alliances, pacts, test orders and draft resolutions that have already existed. While the Federal Ministry of Construction was abolished in 1998 and incorporated into the Ministry of Transport, politicians and the construction industry cannot be accused today of being inactive or neglecting the subject. Only: All previous measures have had little or no success.

First example: the previous one Rent brake. So far, this has had almost no effects. All experts consider them to be largely ineffective. Even the new tightening will not solve the problem. What use are new information obligations about how high the rent has been up to now when there are a lot of people who are also willing to pay the significantly higher, new rent?

Are the landlords pissed off?

In the future, it should also be an administrative offense to modernize in order to get rid of old tenants. How this should be regulated and controlled in practice will be exciting. Perhaps in the end a lot of renovations will simply not be carried out – that is certainly not in the interests of the tenants. In the worst case, the tighter rental price brake will even lead to fewer people being willing to rent out apartments: Because it no longer pays off for them, because they are afraid of complaints from tenants or simply no longer want to do the stress themselves.

Even the consumer protection minister Katarina Barley (SPD) does not believe in a liberation. She herself points out that the new rent brake is only one of many measures. The federal government is also boosting social housing, introducing child benefit and granting building owners new tax advantages.