We all know Berlin is the capital of cool, but can it last? Before we said that Neukolln is the baby of Shoreditch (London) and Bushwick (New York), both ‘discovered areas’ that have ridden the waves of gentrification from squatters, to creatives, to artists, to professionals, to developers and finally, a sanitised and boring demise. A two bed apartment in Shoreditch can fetch £2500 ($3200) a month, Bushwick not far behind at $2500. In the cool areas of Berlin you can still find whole apartments from €500 ($550). The disparity in cost makes it incredibly attractive to the young creative or professional crowd often stung by high rents in the London or San Francisco’s of this world. However, the very thing that makes Berlin attractive: cheap rents and low cost of living, could also be its undoing.
Rent Controls – Mietpreisbremse
Some 50,000 new residents move to Berlin each year, adding significant pressure on housing. Unlike most cities that rely on the ‘free market’ to determine prices and supply, Berlin does something slightly different. 2015 saw rent controls Mietpreisbremse introduced to moderate rent increases (some 85% of occupants in Berlin are renters). These controls prohibit rent increases 10% above the local average and afford other protections for tenants.
What does the future hold?
Even with rent controls, rents are expected to rise given a strong demand for housing and population increases – a real pressure exists on finding an affordable place to live. We’ve heard of apartment viewings being attended by hundreds in the cooler areas of Alt Treptow or Kreuzberg and double digit rent increases per year.
We wonder how long the good times can last, maybe they have already passed? What is clear is that gentrification brings change, the scope of which goes beyond this piece. However it’s important to note the look and feel of the city will permanently change – are Berliners okay with that?
Okay, I’ve made up my mind and I’m moving to Berlin
Despite the above, what is clear is that Berlin is still cheaper and more accessible than almost all capital cities in Europe. A moderate cost of living ensures that the city retains a youthful and creative vibe. There is a strong ex-pat community here and many have made the pilgrimage to Berlin.
For Europeans, moving to Berlin is easy given free movement – you are able to live and work unrestricted. For fellow Brits this gets slightly tricky given the impending withdrawal from the European Union within the next two years or so. Whilst current movement is unaffected, this throws up uncertainty for existing and future would be Berliners.
For non-EU citizens, you may be able to obtain a permit through a work holiday visa programme (for those under 30) eg Australia, New Zealand and others. This entitles you to work for up to 12 months in Germany, you will also need proof of funds.
Failing this, the EU Blue Card is also an option (similar to the US Green Card). If you are highly qualified, have a university degree and can obtain a working contract for €49,600 a year – Germany welcomes you. If your occupation is in a skilled shortage area (eg scientists, mathematics, engineers) you will need to obtain a contract for €38,688. We think it might be difficult to obtain a wage this high in Berlin but if you do manage it, you can work in Germany for up to four years. Good luck!