The Transformation of Berlin: From ‘Poor but Sexy’ to Rich and Unaffordable
Berlin was once an exception to the rule that cool cities have high property and rent prices. But those days are quickly ending. A new wave of private investors has led to skyrocketing prices, forcing low-earners to the city’s periphery.
The Danish man who is taking Berlin away from Berliners prefers to be barefoot in his all-white loft office in the city’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, though he is wearing flip-flops today. “Hi, I’m Jørn,” he says. His last name, Taekker, has become synonymous with real estate speculation in the German capital. But for Katrin Lompscher, a member of the far-left Left Party in Berlin’s parliament, it’s a “symbol of evil.”
Valeria Fiori, a native of Milan, walks up the stairs to Taekker’s fifth-floor office on Paul Lincke Ufer, a street running along a canal in Kreuzberg. There is no elevator. Fiori is a little out of breath by the time she reaches the office. She is 61 and arrived in Berlin yesterday from Milan. She already owns three apartments in Berlin, and now she is buying a fourth from Taekker. “I have more confidence in Germany than in Italy,” she says, adding that she hasn’t spent her entire life saving money just to let the euro crisis destroy her retirement.
A few steps away from the street, three of Taekker’s tenants are sitting on their rooftop deck. They don’t want to see their names in print, so we’ll call them Torsten, Henning and Jakob. “We really have nothing to do with all that,” says Torsten. Their building has become an investment property, like many others in the area. “We just live here,” says Henning.
For a long time, they didn’t know that a Danish investor who almost went bankrupt in the financial crisis had purchased their building. They also didn’t know that this investor is now selling apartments in the building one by one, often to ordinary private buyers from southern Europe who, prompted by the euro crisis, are seeking to move their savings to a safer place — and that their apartments could also be on the market.