BErlen's red-red-green senate is used up after 18 months of government. Nothing progresses, the coalition partners accuse each other of incompetence. In the center of the criticism is the building of Senator Katrin Lompscher from the left party. Tenant associations complain about hugely rising rents – at least ten per cent per year. Construction companies and investors complain about refused or hesitant building permits. And the senator, who mainly depends on the six state-owned companies, has to admit that they will miss their own target – 30,000 new social housing by 2021. How does Lompscher deal with the criticism?
WORLD: Ms Senator, the "Focus" Berlin calls the capital of arrogance. The "mirror" means that Berlin is the Venezuela of Germany. Do you feel as a victim of a media campaign in the senate?
Katrin Lompscher: It is something like that with feelings. As a politician, I have to live with media counseling, which is always looking for excitement. There is also traditionally a Berlin bashing. Berlin is facing enormous challenges. We have started to solve them and solve them differently. That there are resistances is understandable.
WORLD: You are at the center of criticism. You can not deliver the promised 30,000 social housing.
Lompscher: The regular control of the municipal housing corporations has shown that the number of planned apartments has increased to around 44,000, but has reduced the number of apartments ready for use by 2021. This has to do with various issues, from licensing procedures to a lack of building capacity. But this is a snapshot from which a work assignment is created for us, namely to follow. It is not the recognition that we have set ourselves too high goals.
WORLD: You build less, you plant more. That reminds a bit of the airport BER.
Lompscher: It is no less built, but it is built slower than you expected. We recommend speeding things up.
WORLD: But every Berliner knows that the state enterprises can not properly build or manage well. Tenants can tell you what they experience every day in incompetence and disregard. You did not like that from a private landlord.
Lompscher: I am sure that not every tenant of the urban housing companies makes these experiences. But the state housing corporations have not built for long and they have to learn it again. And as far as the tenants are concerned, we have introduced more tenant participation, there are representatives of tenants in the councils and stronger control by the policy.
My recommendation to tenants is: in the case of grievances not only to annoy privately, but to the tenants 'council, the tenants' advisory council, the Berlin housing supply and to contact my senate management. Because we have an interest in not only building state-owned enterprises, but also managing their stocks in an exemplary manner.
WORLD: Good luck with that.
Lompscher: After the fall of the Wall, we had almost 500,000 urban apartments in Berlin. When red-red-green took office there were only slightly less than 300,000. The state-owned companies have only learned to build since 2012. They professionalize at a fast pace and we support it with all the power. Because only with them can we guarantee that what is built meets the interests of the majority of Berliners.
The Senate and districts often have no planning rights in small private projects, but we also need apartments for people with an average income in private new construction projects. We agree with the state-owned companies, and if possible with other builders, we conclude urban development contracts.
WORLD: But while you talk about building, the building permits in Berlin under your aegis have decreased by 15 percent. Unanimous representatives from the construction industry and the tenants make your administration responsible.
Lompscher: That is not true. Although the number of approved projects has decreased by 17 percent, the number of approved homes has increased. The decrease concerns the area of detached and semi-detached houses and is very high at one third. Perhaps because the country is scarcer and therefore more expensive.
In the residential buildings with several floors and therefore in the apartments as a whole, we have an increase in permits. Since 2016 this has been about 25,000 per year and we are doing everything to preserve or increase the number of permits. Incidentally, the majority is approved by the districts. We have created new places in the districts and we have individual cooperation agreements on new housing with the districts.
WORLD: But if, as in Charlottenburg, an investor wants to build 1000 new apartments on a railway, including 500 social housing, the neighborhood says no, there should be a park.
Lompscher: In city planning you can not just say that every property is cultivated, no matter what happens. You must have an overall concept for the city, including the green network. In the interest of the city climate, we also want a green connection from the Grunewald to the densely built-up city center.
WORLD: Berlin is not lacking in green spaces. The Green Party and the Left Party pursue a customer policy in favor of the arrivals who have apartments in Kreuzberg and Mitte, who do not want to have social housing at their door and who want to cycle as undisturbed as possible from their front door to Grunewald. Meanwhile, the poor in the suburbs are driven out like Marzahn. What remains?
Lompscher: People also want to live in Marzahn, and we try to make sure that you can live just as well as anywhere in your preferred districts. We are also trying to preserve Berlin's mix and prevent social segregation, for example through a permit requirement for modernization, through agreements with owners on socially compatible modernization or through the application of a common law of first refusal.
WORLD: The threatened right of first refusal frightens investors. But the Greens also accuse you of not going fast enough in the expropriation of so-called horror houses.
Lompscher: If the application of the right of first refusal or the waiver orders robs apartments of affordable rents of speculation and thus protects the composition of the resident population, that is good for our city. And regarding the so-called problem real estate, we are already active. Arrangements have already been made with individual districts and tax authorities to systematically take action against neglected residential buildings with the administrative instrument of replacement. After consultation with the coalition, the Housing Supervision Act will be extensively revised in two phases.
A quick solution has been agreed for the urgently needed improvement of the cadastral expenditure for replacement measures. To this end, a legislative proposal will be available in the autumn of 2018. The draft for the extended amendment will follow in the first half of 2019. For this purpose, numerous suggestions from the districts are currently being thoroughly investigated. The results of expertise commissioned by spring will also be included.
WORLD: Nevertheless, the technical committee "Social City" of the SPD in Berlin calls you the "stadstilstands-senator". The reigning mayor Michael Müller did not defend you. SPD parliamentarian Raed Saleh once called a "house revolution". Revolutions are directed against the political rulers. So against you. They are overtaken by the SPD on the left.
Lompscher: This is an adventurous proposition, and our city never stands still. These processes did not leave overtaking maneuvers, someone could have laid the foundation for a faster construction. Less than ten years ago, we had 100,000 empty apartments in Berlin. Then the turnaround began, which is mainly characterized by the influx from the outside. Berlin has not created a planning basis for this and has only made insufficient financial provisions.
WORLD: This is a direct criticism of the current reigning mayor Müller. He was a building senator from 2011 to 2014.
Lompscher: Looking back is always easy, but not very productive. I am committed to looking ahead and tackling the tasks.