Gentrification’s Victims: Berlin Fears Rise of New Slums

by Ares Kalandides

There is a recent Spiegel article on segregation in Berlin, the disastrous effects of housing privatization and the cuts in social policies. The article is interesting and it highlights several issues about the growing social polarization in cities. In particular, I wish I had written the part about the results of privatization:

“Where does Mayor Wowereit stand with his policies? Together with Thilo Sarrazin, who was Berlin’s finance minister at the time, the mayor sold off around 110,000 apartments that had been government property between 2002 and 2007. He also eliminated a support program for 28,000 state-subsidized apartments. … This leaves Wowereit lacking an important tool toward preventing city segregation. According to a recent survey by research institute Forsa, one in four Berliners affected by rent increases plans to move soon. This January, meanwhile, Wowereit declared rising rents were a good sign. Residents simply need to get used to the fact that the city — which has long been famous for its cheap rents — is no longer as inexpensive as it once was, the mayor said, although he added that income levels should also increase.”

Read the full article at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,748532,00.html

Though I tend to agree with a lot of what is said, I still have some questions regarding the above account:

1) Is any kind of regeneration policy bound to lead to gentrification? Do we displace people while we are supposed to be creating better living conditions for them? Is there a model where one can be done whithout the other?

2) If the above is true, then is it acceptable to take a place’s deterioration for granted, simply so that poor people can pay the rent?

More and more I am convinced that there can be no urban policy without a serious social one.

About Ares

Ares Kalandides holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Studies from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the founder and CEO of Inpolis, an international consultancy based in Berlin, Germany and has implement several projects around the world. Ares teaches Urban Economics at the Technical University in Berlin and Metropolitan Studies at NYU Berlin.
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