The title of the 149-page coalition pact presented on Tuesday by the SPD, Linke and Greens — “Berlin, the capital of the future: social, ecological, different” — represents their intention to change the face of the metropolis over the next five years.
Two months after the municipal elections and one week after the national agreement of the “traffic light” government, the new red-red-green junta led by three women is rewriting the politics of the “city-state” besieged by real estate speculation, by the effects of climate change, as well as by the walls built by Frontex. This is the end of the myth of the “poor but sexy city” invented by the former social-democratic governor Klaus Wowereit and the beginning of the “eco-social municipality” envisioned Franziska Giffey: the first female mayor of Berlin.
“Affordable housing and zero emissions by 2030, but also a strong economy with good jobs, sustainable public transport and a diverse society.” All this comes in addition to the four priority areas for investment: schools, social services, health care and a “one-size-fits-all” bureaucracy, as summarized by the SPD mayor, Green leader Bettina Jarasch and Linke leader Katina Schubert.
However, the pact does not say anything about the expropriation of housing owned by large real estate companies, approved in September by Berliners in the referendum promoted by Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen: the commitment of the new government is limited to establishing a commission of experts with the task of “examining the legal conditions to implement the popular consultation.”
In any case, Berlin’s vocation will no longer be the wild business of bricks and mortar for the benefit of wealthy investors in the West. From now on, “urban planning must be respectful of the environment,” and a special public body will acquire plots of land in compensation for each new construction.
This is a true revolution in a city where the right to a house has so far applied only—and sometimes not even—in the suburbs, among the scattering of concrete skyscrapers inherited from the DDR, inhabited mainly by immigrants and East Germans who survive only thanks to state subsidies. It is no coincidence that one of the top provisions of the pact between the SPD, Linke and Greens is the construction of 20,000 new social housing units per year, to reach 200,000 by 2030. Of these, 51,000 will be built in forgotten neighborhoods dozens of kilometers away from the gleaming lights of the center, such as Johannisthal, Adlershof, Köpenick and Siemensstadt (the Siemens workers’ neighborhood). The political goal is that “at least 400,000 apartments will have to be owned by the municipality by the end of the legislature.”
And in a city where in the last five years the number of riders and waiters paid a pittance has multiplied, the minimum wage of €13 per hour will come into force in the next six months: higher than the €12 per hour established nationally by the “traffic light” coalition.
“By ‘good work’ we mean, above all, a job with dignified pay,” specified the three women who are preparing to govern Berlin, while sustainable mobility doesn’t just translated into bicycle lanes and electric buses, but more importantly in the “social fare train ticket” for the benefit of over 300,000 commuters who travel into the capital every day just to work.
There is the new “policy for the have-nots” that does not distinguish between German citizens and foreign residents, starting with refugees who will be housed in real apartments with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and all the necessary furniture. Those are the provisions of the “Housing for Refugees” plan, dedicated to thousands of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis in the city that has declared itself a “safe haven” for those fleeing war, poverty and global warming.
But Berlin solidarity also means facilitating family reunifications and, above all, no longer deporting those who don’t have the papers to stay in the city to their countries of origin: “Repatriations to unsafe areas must end and be replaced with humanitarian residence permits,” says the policy line of the red-red-green government, which is asking the “traffic light” central government to also abolish the requirement of approval from the Interior Ministry as a pre-requisite for refugee reception.