Housing and its Discontents.

“But few cities face a quandary as difficult as Berlin’s. More than 40,000 new residents a year have been piling in recently, as Berlin has become a magnet for European youth. Yet no more than 8,000 housing units a year were added through 2014, according to real-estate firm JLL, a yawning gap that lies at the heart of Berlin’s housing problems today.”

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18 thoughts on “Housing and its Discontents.

        • When I was there, there were cranes all over the skyline. Maybe they couldn’t build fast enough no matter what, or maybe not the right kind of construction was going on (either not enough residential, and/or in my recollection many cities in Germany tend to not build up very high – not sure if that’s code/custom).

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          • Almost all of the time that I’ve lived in the Front Range Colorado urban corridor, it has been a twisted bit of humor to refer to “the official bird of the Front Range, the construction crane.” These days they are back in full force, not just in Denver but in all of the surrounding suburbs. Even in the worst of the last recession, when the total number of jobs was declining, on the order of 50K people per year were moving in.

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      • Berlin’s cheapness was a legacy of the Cold War. Besides the fact that a lot of people wanted out of East Germany, the inefficiencies of Communist rule essentially made sure that East Berlin was substandard by Western living standards. This made it really cheap.

        West Berlin was also a cheap place to live compared to other German cities because of the tense political situation. The West German government had to subsidize people living there. This basically meant that West Berlin was like New York during the 1970s and 1980s during the latter Cold War except with more senior citizens because old time Berliners had the most loyalty to the place. It wasn’t refined living but it was apparently very exciting and Bohemian.

        This legacy created a lot of cheap housing but it also, as you said, made Berlin an interesting place that attracts young people. When it became Germany’s capital again, everything was set in motion.

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    • The traditional answer to this would be to let the new-comers build shacks and other poorly built housing of their own and create a slum. Some enterprising landlords might also take a house or building intended for one family or a small number of people and stuff them to the gills. These answers are unacceptable across the political spectrum in the developed world. The liberal side wouldn’t like the substandard buildings that many people would have to live in and the conservative side would detest the lack of respect to property rights necessary for shanty towns.

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      • Yeah, neither answer is satisfying, although subdividing existing stock is the more desireable of the two options, but I doubt that would meet demand.

        For places like Berlin, or NY, or SF, or any other city growing faster than it can handle, as much as it is irksome or unfair, letting housing prices soar while new housing & supporting infrastructure is built is not a bad option, even with the negatives.

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      • The traditional answer to this would be to let the new-comers build shacks and other poorly built housing of their own and create a slum. Some enterprising landlords might also take a house or building intended for one family or a small number of people and stuff them to the gills. These answers are unacceptable across the political spectrum in the developed world.

        Eh? Back when I was in college, we called that second option “student housing.” Unless you are claiming that Isla Vista is not part of the developed world. Which, come to think of it, is a defensible position. Or at least it was in the 1980s.

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        • I’m talking more about more like How the Other Half lives level of stuffing buildings to the guilds. We are talking about a family with children renting one room that still needs to take in borders to make rent.

          It actually still happens in New York. Its how a lot of immigrants manage to survive on low wages.

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  1. Lee has the reasons that the party is ending. Berlin had an excess of housing stock after reunification because a lot of people did not want to live in East Berlin. This meant immigrants and ex-pats moved in. I don’t know too much about it but I’ve read a bunch of stuff over the past few years was that Berlin was pretty cheap so you could live a party all night lifestyle on not much money.

    All so very Weimar.

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    • You don’t have to go as far back as Weimar, really. My take that it was pretty much a mid-to-late ’70’s/early ’80s NYC thing going on there – relatively cheap, and parts of it were very dirty and dangerous.

      Instead of punk, you had a ton of electronic music instead.

      And now, it will become NYC in the 90s-aughts.

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    • West Berlin was barely livable at the end of the Cold War as well. Most of the residents were either senior citizens with deep attachments to Berlin or the bohemian sort or students. Working and middle class Germans tended to concentrate in West German cities like Cologne or Hamburg. Getting Turkish immigrants to move to West Berlin was an epic task. The entire economy of West Berlin was more than a little artificially maintained during the late Cold War. It would have been a rust belt city without the political need for West Germany to maintain a presence there.

      The bohemian scene did make Berlin a very interesting place to live. The decision to remove the capital back to Berlin ensured that it lots of powerful people and middle class civil servants would have to live in or near Berlin. The damage caused by the Cold War kept Berlin cheap for years after reunification. Things change or end though.

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