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#216: New housing referendum, marathon, Branden-boom
Rents up in the bacon belt
Dear 20 Percent,
I’m not especially impressed by Letzte Generation’s stunt during the Berlin Marathon at the weekend. Eight climate activists belonging to the group tipped several buckets of orange paint at the beginning of the course, minutes before the start of the race. The protesters tried to occupy the asphalt but were quickly carried off by police. The eight individuals now face fines of €2,000 each, according to RBB.
Blocking traffic — emissions from cars make up a considerable portion of Germany’s climate footprint — makes some kind of sense to me, but disrupting a marathon seems counterproductive.
Right after their paint attack on the Brandenburg Gate, the group seems to be running out of ways to attract attention to the climate emergency — and dead set on alienating segments of society that might be sympathetic to their cause. Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Ethiopian runner Tigist Assefa who set a new women’s world record of 2:11:53 on Sunday, despite having to run over wet paint.
More news below.
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New housing referendum
At a press conference in front of city hall Tuesday morning, campaigners Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen announced they would draft their own law on expropriating large private landlords with help from experts and lawyers, and push for a new referendum to get the law on the books. They say the Berlin government has failed to respect the result of their successful referendum exactly two years ago in which 59.1% of participating citizens voted in favour of a forced state buyback of housing companies that own in excess of 3,000 units. They accuse Berlin’s current CDU-SPD coalition of stalling democracy with a toothless “framework law”. In an interview with Tagesspiegel (paywall), spokesman Justus Henze said a draft could be ready within a year and that the group would strive for a new referendum vote during the city-state election expected to take place in 2026. Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen, named after a now-defunct housing company, hopes to raise €100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign.
More passenger-friendly Hauptbahnhof?
Deutsche Bahn wants to update the Hauptbahnhof as it works to double rail traffic in the future — passenger traffic has already jumped 30% in the past decade, according to Tagesspiegel (paywall). The railway wants to close several open shafts on the top platforms to create more room for passengers and their luggage. But the project could be thwarted by GMP Architekten, whose since-deceased founder designed the station. Meinhard von Gerkan, the founder, already battled Deutsche Bahn after it shortened the rounded glass roof and jettisoned plans for vaulted ceilings over the basement platforms to speed construction and lower costs. Others have noted that infrastructure such as elevators and bathrooms could use a little attention too.
“Sick man of Europe”? This summer The Economist dusted off that old chestnut because Germany registered a couple of quarters of slightly negative economic output. Not Brandenburg. The state enveloping Berlin recorded an annual growth rate of 6% in the first half of the year, blazing past the rest of Germany. On the national level, economic output fell by 0.3% in the same period. Berlin’s economy shrank by 0.1%. Why the Branden-boom? According to business association UVB, it’s mostly due to Tesla and a growing network of suppliers working with the electric carmarker.
Yay, more Bürgerämter
Rather than improving citizen UX at berlin.de and streamlining internal bureaucratic processes, Berlin is focusing on the analogue. Two new Bürgerämter (“bürgeramts” in expat Denglisch?) are set to open next year: in Spandau and Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Pankow and Köpenick are slated for 2025. Let’s hope they’re the Bürgeramts of the future, with free WiFi and USB-charging, like the one they’re testing in Kreuzberg.
For those priced out of the Berlin rental market, the Speckgürtel (literally the “bacon belt” but colloquially the ring of fat around well-fed midriffs) suburbs around the city used to offer cheaper living options. According to property site Immoscout, rents 16km to 30km from the inner city in 2022 were on average 13.78% lower than in Berlin. This year that difference has shrunk to a mere 8.81%.