LET’S BUY AN APARTMENT IN BERLIN
I don’t know why but I suddenly thought about my friends talking about buying an apartment in Berlin. They are still young, but as the German housing market is still affordable, they were thinking about getting a property in Berlin, where prices are very likely to rise during the next decade.
I remember them telling me: “Well, we can buy a flat and lend it to you while you’re there!” with a big smile and I could not help feeling very uncomfortable. I just could not figure out why. Well, there is certainly the idea that they were talking about making money out of friendship, but I might be over sensitive. I think the point is different. Those young French people are trying to invest in a market that is not as saturated as the French one (at least, in Paris) in order to make interesting profits and earn money. But what they do is, in a word, speculation on the back of German people. “You know, German people don’t have the culture of youhavetobuyyourhouse, as we do. So they rent apartments, and if you feel like buying, prices are much more affordable than in France. So we’re thinking of investing there and renting the place for a good price.” I can totally picture people investing massively in the German housing market, making prices explode and creating a small gentrification bubble. Berlin, the capital of hipster people in Europe, will see rents and house prices go up, creating the same segregation problem as in many major cities: only privileged people will be able to afford living in central Berlin, while poor people will be pushed away, further and further away. They’ll face losing their neighborhood and longer commute hours, while youngsters will be investing their old environment.
I wish I had thought about this earlier and asked them a very simple: do you actually think about the social consequences of your actions? Maybe we should ask ourselves this question more often. Maybe it would help creating a world that is a little less cruel, a little less cold. When I look at Paris, I see how the municipality tries to renovate and give a new vibe to poor neighborhood. But the result is generally the same: old neighbors move out of the area because rents go up and they can’t afford it anymore. New types of population move in and gentrification is on the way. As a result, you get in a first period very multicultural, trendy neighborhood that will, eventually, become hipsters’ HQ. I’m not saying that I want the city to be left alone and that trying to create a better environment for poorer population is bad, on the contrary. But it does have deep social consequences that are often overlooked. We do not live in a world of pink poneys and rainbows. Let’s simply look a little further and stop focusing on our own selfish interests.