No rent increases in Berlin-Lichtenberg: How a cooperative slows down the price increase

There is another way! While the Berlin Senate recently adopted the Mietendeckel to protect Berlin residents from the dramatic rent development in the city, there is a housing cooperative, which does just that long. Focused on the common good of its tenants, it has been holding back on rent increases for years, and that without any legal pressure. From the general Mietendeckel she still holds nothing.

Karlheinz Hekke, 81, is satisfied. He pays 445 euros for his 60 square meter apartment, he says. For years he had no rent increase more. “I think that’s good,” says the pensioner. Hekke lives in an apartment of the Wohnungsgenossenschaft Lichtenberg. With around 10,000 apartments, it is Berlin’s largest housing cooperative – and an example of how landlords oriented towards the common good are holding back on rent increases.

“From 2012 to 2018, we developed a rental concept for the old members of the cooperative, according to which two-thirds of the residents did not receive a rent increase for seven years,” says Thomas Kleindienst, board member of the cooperative. “We have set rental limits of an average of five euros per square meter.” Only those whose rents were below these limits, got an increase. In addition, higher rents are required when concluding new contracts.

Wohnungsgenossenschaft Lichtenberg has developed a new rental concept

The result: at the end of last year, the average rent for the housing cooperative Lichtenberg was 5.64 euros per square meter of living space – more than one euro below the average of the current rent index.

After the first rental concept 2018 had expired, the cooperative opened a new one. “Last year, we developed the second rental concept,” reports Kleindienst. “We will then increase the rents until 2023 again for only about a third of apartments where the rents are below the limits, by a maximum of 25 cents per square meter of living space.”

For an average apartment of 60 square meters, the rent increase would be within five years at 15 euros per month, says Monika Thiele, co-board member of the cooperative. “And in any case, we stay below the rent index.”

Part of the concept of the housing cooperative is that it comprehensively refurbishes apartments that it rents out – and then demands a higher rent. “We are renewing the electrical system, the floors, the doors and the sanitary facilities, and we are re-tiling the bathrooms,” says Monika Thiele. “In addition, the fire protection is upgraded.” On average, the cooperative invest in a complete renovation around 20,000 euros per apartment.

Wohnungsgenossenschaft Lichtenberg: 20 percent of apartments now barrier-free access

Thereafter, the rent of sometimes 4.50 euros per square meter, which was to pay for the old state, increased to an average of 7.20 euros per square meter, says Thomas Kleindienst. “That is Mietspiegel plus ten per cent” – thus the rent, which is permitted according to Mietpreisbremse.

Karlheinz Hekke, tenant with the cooperative

Karlheinz Hekke, tenant with the cooperative

Photo:

Sabine Gudath

By investing in their homes, the cooperative has been trying for years to be attractive. “In the first ten years after the reunification, we have borrowed for just under 500 million euros and spent on the comprehensive renovation and repair,” says Kleindienst.

Among other things, the old pipes for gas were removed and the houses were connected to the district heating. After the financial crisis, the cooperative could have reposted the loans on more favorable terms – and used the new financial leeway for further investment. “We have extended elevators to the ground floor, so that 20 percent of the apartments are now accessible. And we’ve grown more than 500 balconies over the past five to six years. “

However, the current rental concept only works if the cooperative could also demand the higher rent for an investment of 20,000 euros in the new lease. “That’s why the Mietendeckel the death of our concept,” says Kleindienst.

Mietendeckel in Berlin provides for the introduction of Mietobergrenzen

The cover provides that the rents are completely frozen for five years – and also at the re-letting. In such cases, the cooperative could only collect the rent paid by the previous tenant. In many cases 4.50 euros per square meter.

This contradicts “any principle of equal treatment and any reason,” says Kleindienst. Because that will not return the money invested. Should the law take effect retroactively to 18 June, too much demanded amounts would have to be refunded.

The new building will be strangled, fears Kleindienst. Although the new building is excluded from the rent cover, but this applies only to the first rental. If the cooperative rented a new building initially for 11.13 euros per square meter, as now, they must expect after the Mietenteckel less money in a tenant change.

Monika Thiele (l.) And Thomas Kleindienst (r.), Directors of the cooperative.

Monika Thiele (l.) And Thomas Kleindienst (r.), Directors of the cooperative.

Photo:

Sabine Gudath

Because the rental cover provides for the introduction of upper rent limits, which should be based on a date when the housing market was not yet in trouble. Which year one would like to refer to is “currently completely unclear,” says Monika Thiele. “The result of the rental cover would be that we can no longer account for investments in the renovation and new construction,” explains Thomas Kleindienst.

The two board members can not understand that. “We have a low rental level in the portfolio and we also adhere to the rent index when it comes to re-letting,” says Monika Thiele. “With us there is no luxury refurbishment and no rental apartments are converted into condominiums.” The cap treat “but all the same”.