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Berlin votes to freeze rent prices for five years

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Berlin city council has proposed a five year ban on rent hikes
Berlin city council has proposed a five year ban on rent hikes -
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Shuttling over half your salary straight to your landlord; living in a houseshare with five other people; panicking over a renoviction - all of these are part of the millennial experience, living in a large European city. Skyrocketing rent prices in places like London and Paris are an old story by now, but Berlin - once hailed as a bastion of affordability among capitols - is a new name on the scene.

In the past decade, rent prices in Berlin have doubled. 85 per cent of Berliners rent rather than own their home, and around 40 000 people have moved to the city in the last ten years- all adding to what experts say is a ballooning rent crisis.

"Last year Berlin saw the highest price rises in property values in the entire world. Last year it was 20 per cent," said Thomas McGath, representative of property company Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen.

Locals are feeling the pinch, outraged and fearful that Berlin could be the next London. Housing advocate groups and activists have organised protests like the one that took over Alexanderplatz in April.

Now, it seems that city council has heard their demands. Berlin's municipal government has voted to freeze rents for the next five years, intended to be applied retroactively from June 18 once the bill passes the next legislative steps. The retroactive clause is intended to circumvent any property owners making massive, panicked rent hikes in the meantime- but those details still remain to be seen, as the bill is not expected to be adopted until January 2020.

Critics say the new law will discourage landlords from doing much-needed renovations to properties if they can't recoup the costs in rent. It's also seen by some as a deterrent for property developers, who would otherwise build more properties and increase the rental supply in the city.

"I think and we think that it's a good sign that this whole issue of not enough affordable housing is coming to the agenda and somethings being done," said Moritz Biel, who is part of a housing association that has been fighting rent hikes.

"I'm not sure if it's really going to solve the problem though. I think there's a lot of questions to it, like also how to handle other solutions of affordable housing like co-ops. But in general, I think it's a good sign that this whole thing is going to be handled."

The important thing, says Moritz, is that the city doesn't stop at the rent freeze. There's much more that needs to be done if Berlin is going to remain an affordable place to live.

"I think we need more new housing, also at affordable prices supported by the state. And we also need more signs like this that renting and housing is not just for capital investment, it's for people who live there. So people can live there at affordable prices and it's not an investment market."