Why is life so priceless

TV review: Why living in the city is becoming almost unaffordable

Daniel Bösel is like so many others in Munich: He studied business administration and has been working as a personnel consultant in a large company for several months - for 1700 euros net per month. Because the 26-year-old is no longer a student, he has to move out of his dormitory - and has therefore written to 400 landlords in six months.

His absolute limit is 1000 euros warm rent. He was invited to 50 visits, each time Bösel brought his application folder with him, in which he even offered to clean the house. And yet: There wasn't a single promise in six months.

The 45-minute ARD report "The Rental Report - When Housing Becomes Unaffordable" sounds like a film that hits the already well-known notch: normal tenants will no longer be able to afford a place to stay in good city locations. This is due to greedy investors who ruthlessly promote gentrification, regardless of loss.

Calm and matter-of-fact

All the more surprising is the differentiated picture that filmmaker Tobias Streck paints in his documentary: The “rental report” comes across as calm and objective. There is no search for major scandals, not for one-sided examples, there are no predictable victim and perpetrator roles.

The "rental report" is a great deal of hard work and presents the viewer with faces and opinions from all over the country: citizens, officials, politicians and brokers from Meerane to Munich have their say. This multitude of views shows one thing above all: the problem is more complex than it is often presented.

Of course there are real estate agents in Munich as in Berlin who transform run-down houses in good locations into penthouses and say sentences like “Three to four million, that's how much it costs. These are not apartments that you need, but apartments that you want to have ”. These are brokers who then point out that Germany is still “sensationally cheap” in a European comparison, if you consider that there are apartments for 100 million euros in London and Paris.

The rent brake should fix it

But there are more sides than this - for example, the cities themselves recognized years ago that they had to prevent this development. In Munich, for example, there is a “preservation statute” that makes any renovation work, no matter how small, difficult for homeowners and investors, because even a new whirlpool in the bathroom is subject to approval.

And there are politicians like Federal Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who refers to the rent brake planned for 2015, which is supposed to relax the market a bit. Of course, the realtors find the approach impossible: “The fight for those looking for accommodation is not getting any easier,” predicts the Munich realtor Thomas Aigner, for example. "Instead of 100 applicants for an apartment, we suddenly have 200 or 300." That could not be something anyone seriously wanted.

You can see it that way, but it is only half the story, because: After all, the possible profit and thus the incentive for pure luxury renovations would be capped with the rent brake. And that's something.

65 square meters with a balcony for 400 euros warm

But more is being done: In the Bavarian capital, for example, the “socially just use of land” ensures that building owners bear the costs for social infrastructure such as schools and playgrounds. And that around 30 percent of the new buildings must be subsidized living space, so that ideally all city quarters have a balanced population structure. There are similar projects in Hamburg and Stuttgart.

After 20 minutes, the report suddenly takes an unexpected turn: It is devoted to areas where the vacancy rate is 18 percent, where 200 more people die than are born every year and where those responsible do everything to attract young people, as in the 15,000-inhabitant town of Meerane near Zwickau.

There the mayor regrets the decay of the former stately houses, where a 65 square meter apartment with a balcony costs 400 euros. Because hardly anyone wants to live there. The problem cannot only be observed in the new federal states: in Wallmerod in Rhineland-Palatinate, too, the authorities are fighting for every family, for example with funding programs for new buildings in the town center. It works, brings life to the place and creates bridges between the generations.

"For the living diversity we have to move together"

After about 40 minutes full of facts and views, the filmmakers close with an interesting detail: With 4400 people per square kilometer, Munich is the most densely populated city in Germany. "If we want to preserve the city's lively diversity, we have to distribute wealth and space in solidarity - that is, move closer together," says the speaker from the off.

Whether one should wish that the cities in the country develop like the undoubtedly beautiful, but extremely expensive pavement Munich for tenants is rather questionable. Nevertheless, the conclusion of the report sounds more thoughtful and telling than the extract of so many other reports that have dealt with the topic in recent months.

“The rental report - when living becomes unaffordable” is available in the ARD media library.