Filming Cities is a monthly series on The Proto City, in which one of our authors will review a film about the urban environments that we inhabit. This month we review ‘Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels’, a German documentary about initiatives in Berlin fighting against unreasonable rent increases and evictions.
Mietrebellen – Widerstand gegen den Ausverkauf der Stadt
(Rent Rebels – Resistance Against Selling Out The City)
by Gertrud Schulte Westenberg and Matthias Coers
‘I hadn’t thought I need to go on the streets again to protest in my age because I’m worried where I can live.’ (one senior protester at a rally on Kottbusser Tor; original: Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass ich in meinem Alter noch einmal auf die Straße protestieren gehen muss aus Sorge, wo ich wohnen werde.)
Berlin is famous to all of us for being a city of the creative, the young, and the hedonists, where you can have a good life with relatively low income. The city has been in decline for decades due to the separation, thus offering plenty of cheap apartments. However, in the last decade, the real estate market became more dynamic with rising prices and due to rent legislations often extremely quick. Vacancy rates dropped from 4% in the early 2000s to only 1,7% today (according to the director at urbanize festival in Vienna on Oct. 12th 2014), limiting the ability for renters to move easily from one apartment to the other. Evictions are happening on a daily basis, as real estate developers are raising rents to clear buildings of their long-time tenants in order to re-rent the apartments for a higher price. In a city with an average income of 1650 Euros monthly and roughly 17% are living of welfare benefits, rent increases of sometimes 100% are posing a severe danger to social security in the city, as many people are in danger of becoming homeless, sparking widespread protest among citizens.