Residents’ revenge: how citizens are taking on city developers
By George Hammond. Published in the Financial Times (FT) on 11 April 2019
"(Berlin) tenants had taken to the streets incensed at spiralling rents. Their protest march fired the starting gun on a campaign that could see Berlin’s renters wrestle 240,000 apartments out of the hands of large corporate landlords. In parts of the city, prices have more than doubled in the past 10 years, according to a study by property portal Immowelt. Many blame companies such as Deutsche Wohnen, Berlin’s largest landlord, which owns about 110,000 apartments in the city.
“We are seeing dramatic social cleansing. The cause, as we see it, is the growing financialisation of the private rented sector,” says Helge Peters, a member of Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co, the group that organised the march.
The campaigners in Berlin are not alone. Residents in New York and London have assembled in recent years to protest about high rents and house prices — casting property investors and developers as villains. In both cities, they have successfully halted multi-billion-dollar development projects. Often it is the city’s young adults — many locked out of home-ownership by stagnating wages and rising living costs — who are in the vanguard.
City planners and politicians should take this “anti-development politics” seriously, says Anthony Breach, an analyst at the think-tank Centre for Cities. Above all, investors need to take heed. “It’s important for investors to understand: there is significant political risk to them because we can take away their social licence to operate,” says Peters."
Keywords: Berlin, London, New York, Germany, UK, US, protests, tenants, corporate landlords, financialisation of housing, financialization