Last year Deutsche Wohnen was in the front line of a discussion that essentially revolved around the question of how to provide affordable housing. A conversation with Michael Zahn, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Wohnen SE.
Mr Zahn, for months your company has been at the centre of a hard-fought public debate about housing. What do you say to the accusation that you are only interested in making a profit?
The accusation is pretty blatant. Deutsche Wohnen is present on the ground in Berlin and is not some faceless fund in a tax haven. That is one reason why we are at the centre of the debate, which in my opinion is mostly about the widespread fears caused by the changes that are taking place in big cities. We have to take those seriously. But it doesn’t help just to listen to the people who shout loudest and press for the simplest solutions. What is needed to solve the problems on the housing market is courage, willpower, character, and the ability to persuade people and make things happen. We have to look for new ways of finding a solution that works for everyone.
Which ways do you suggest when you are talking to the political decision makers?
If we base rent levels more on incomes in future we would encourage solidarity in our city. Simultaneously we have to answer the question of how cities will look in fifteen to twenty years time. Here we are faced with massive challenges. Climate protection, an ageing society, migration, new ways of living and working also call for new solutions in terms of housing. Public and private housing companies, policymakers and critical stakeholders have to respond to all this as a challenge for everyone. But we can achieve concrete, shortterm successes right now if we speed up the process of new construction. Policymakers could do a lot more here, by which I mean making building land available, granting planning consent much faster and reducing the volume of taxes, charges and regulations.