„We have to talk“ – the Berlin Dialogue

Housing is a topic at the centre of public debate. Which is no surprise, because there is a shortage of housing in the big cities and metropolitan areas. The sometimes heated debates have also resulted in a more fundamental consideration of housing – in connection with topics such as climate protection, gentrification, housing shortages, rent increases or demographic change.

Deutsche Wohnen was at the heart of a discus­sion that we did not shy away from in 2019: what is fair housing and how do we want to live in the future? We want to assume our responsi­bilities as the largest private housing company in Berlin and make a contribution to solving the problems on the housing market. So we invited people to take part in a dialogue with us – policy­makers, experts, but above all the people of Berlin.

The dialogue began with a milestone that attracted a lot of attention: Deutsche Wohnen formulated a promise to its tenants – you can read more about that on the following pages. The next step was to invite interested citizens, decision makers and opinion leaders by way of adverts and posters to take part in the Berlin Dialogue for a fair housing market. Four town hall events and one online platform provided the framework. The invitation was a success. The events attracted not only policymakers, aca­demics, journalists and sector experts, but also some 250 Berlin residents to take part in the discussion. And the discussions were decidedly enthusiastic. Often a lively exchange was still taking place long after the official event was over. Fair housing is a subject people feel strongly about – in many different respects.

And they expressed a wide range of thoughts, suggestions, ideas, and, of course, criticism, too. We didn’t want any of these to be lost, so we used this material as the basis for drafting our “Pact for fair housing”. It summarises how fair housing can work for everyone.

So what lessons can be learned from the Berlin Dialogue? Manuela Damianakis, Head of Corporate Communication at Deutsche Wohnen, says talking about the subject openly with others is the only right way to go: “The new process of open dialogue, deliberately seeking a sometimes heated discussion, is also reflected in a more discerning public perception of the whole range of topics.” So is that now the end of the “Fair housing” debate? “No”, says Manuela Damianakis, “for Deutsche Wohnen the dialogue is certainly not over. Our aim is rather to establish ourselves permanently in the public eye as an open­minded player, who is always willing to talk and to work out constructive solutions with everyone involved.”

Pact for fair housing

#1 New construction

Berlin is short of up to 200,000 apartments. Only by a massive programme of new building can we create the necessary accommodation. And that is only possible when the municipal, cooperative and private­-sector players in the housing market, society and politics all pull in the same direction.

#2 Individual solutions

Taking tenants’ individual incomes into account is fairer than choosing a one­-size-­fits-­all solution, as would be the case with political regulation.

#3 Climate protection

Climate protection and tenant protection must not be played off against each other. Berlin needs energy­-efficient apartments with affordable rents.

#4 Building land/speculation

An overview of all the free land in the city is needed. Berlin also needs to regain control over available building land and so stop unnecessary speculation with land.

Dialogue Forum on 1 November 2019 in Berlin-Pankow
Dialogue Forum on 1 November 2019 in Berlin-Pankow

Opinions from the four panel discussions

“These are agitated times. It is important for us to talk to the people involved. We have to find ways of ensuring fair housing.”
Henrik Thomsen, Management Board member, Deutsche Wohnen SE

“Berlin has growing pains. That is good news, but now we have to catch up in terms of new construction and infrastructure.”
Andreas Tied, Investitionsbank Berlin

“A social contract for bigger construction projects is urgently needed.”
Sebastian Czaja, Vorsitzender FDP-Fraktion Berlin

“Deutsche Wohnen is the only pri­vate landlord to offer tenants such a promise. I am very interested to see how that works out in practice.”
Daniel Buchholz, SPD parliamentary spokesman for urban development, the environment and climate action

The Berlin Dialogue in figures

  • 4

    dialogue forums
    in October and November 2019.

  • 21

    panel guests
    from politics, business and civil society.

  • 246

    spectators
    at the events.

  • 120

    posts
    in the online forum faires-wohnen.berlin.

  • 28

    experts
    in 6 videos, 4 dialogue forums and 4 podcasts.

How Berlin residents assess the housing situation

As part of the project “Fair Housing in Berlin” a representative opinion survey about the hous­ing situation was carried out among Berlin resi­dents on behalf of Deutsche Wohnen. Kantar TNS, a polling institute, surveyed 1,000 people in September 2019. The survey comprised 15 ques­tions. A majority of Berlin residents sees the construction of new housing as the best solution to rising rents. At the same time it shows that people in Berlin see politicians as responsible for solving the problems on the Berlin housing market (74% say the Berlin city council, 57% the federal government).

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