Rent cover - when living becomes unconstitutional

When housing becomes unconstitutional

In its previous form, the rent cover is off the table for the time being. Is federal legislation coming now?

Photo: Steinach / IMAGO

The Federal Constitutional Court has decided: The Berlin rent cap is incompatible with the Basic Law and is therefore void.

There are few decisions by this court that affect the lives of so many people so directly: Because their rents have been automatically reduced for more than a year, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of tenants in Berlin now suddenly have to make back payments, who already have theirs Threatening to blow up tight budgets.

The fact that their rent was lowered - some say from a “customary” level to a politically fixed one, others: from a completely unrealistic level to a reasonably affordable one - that was one of the few great moments of left-wing politics in this country in recent years.

Politics works! Every month on the account

The fact that “politics” can't make a difference anyway, was what nurtured disaffection with politics for a long time: Here, however, you could see the political difference on the account at the end of each month. So redistribution is possible! From real estate groups to tenants: inside, at least a little. Yes, that is possible.

And not only is it possible, no, there is even a broad political majority in favor. This is due to the extensive market failure on the housing market: “The market” does not regulate that people with the income they earn in Berlin can also find affordable housing in Berlin. On the contrary: rents rise and rise while wages stagnate. That is why the rent cap was not a radical left-wing project, but an appropriate response to the “rent madness”, which was also understood by the voters of the CDU.

But how do you deal with the disappointment and anger that the Federal Constitutional Court decision will result in? It is understandable that many people cite the “Deutsche Wohnen & Co expropriate” campaign aimed at socializing large real estate groups as an antidote, and this is perhaps the right path for Berlin. But actually the decision directs the gaze towards a larger goal.

Because: The judges: inside did not say anything against the rent cap, but limited themselves to the fact that the State of Berlin had nothing to regulate here. Because the federal government is already legislating on the matter, it is unconstitutional for the state to go one step further.

So the federal government has to fix it

So it is only logical to answer: Then the federal government has to fix it! So it is fitting that in September, for the first time in a long time, voters would again have the opportunity to elect a federal government that no longer wants to leave the field of housing policy to the market, but instead makes politics for it.

As a second consequence one could say: If it is supposed to be against the constitution for a city to try to implement housing policy in the interests of the majority of its citizens, then all the worse for the constitution. You can change that too if you have the majority.

The voters are therefore asked twice. Some of them will remember in September that the CDU and FDP thought it a good idea to sacrifice tenant protection to property speculation in the middle of a global pandemic.