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What We Can Learn From Berlin's New Rent Control Law

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Berlin's bold new rent control law—the mietpreisbremse (or, "rental price brake")—is only a month old, but already it's making Europe's so-called "coolest city" more affordable for middle- and lower-income residents.

The law works by essentially capping rent neighborhood-by-neighborhood, so that landlords are prohibited from charging more than 10 percent above each district's median rental price (new developments are exempt from the law). According to the data, the average rent for new contracts has already fallen 3.1 percent across the city. Before the law was enacted, rent typically jumped 0.3 percent per month, and from 2013 to 2014, rent rose by more than 9 percent.

But could the mietpreisbremse model be applied to other large cities, like New York?

New York and Berlin share a number of similarities. Both cities have a majority of renters (64 percent of Berliners; 69 percent of New Yorkers), and both cities have seen the cost of living skyrocket in recents years as more affluent residents move into gentrifying neighborhoods. However, Berlin's housing laws are drastically more pro-tenant than New York's, because influential voting blocs tend to rent, rather than own. For example, the mietpreisbremse law is just one of several recent "Community Defense" laws passed in Germany, which, as Brick Underground explains, "forbid luxury conversions in rapidly gentrifying areas," and ban short-term vacation rentals.

It's almost impossible to imagine New York adopting laws as strong as Berlin's that put further limits on market-rate development, but the Rent Guidelines Board's historic decision last month to approve a rent freeze on stabilized apartments is a small step in the right direction. The decision marks the second year in a row that the Board has voted in favor of tenants, and preserving existing units is a cornerstone of Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan.

But without far-reaching, permanent reform on a citywide basis in the vein of Berlin's laws, affordable housing in New York City has a fairly bleak future.
· Did Berlin Just Crack the Code to Keeping Rents Affordable? [Brick Underground]
· Berlin's New Rent Control Laws Are Already Working [CityLab]
· Could Berlin's Rent Regulations Become a Model for New York City? Brooklyn Too? ['Stoner]
· A Month In, Berlin Rent Control Already Lowering Prices [Curbed]