More Berliners could soon be eligible for social housing
Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner has announced plans to raise the income threshold within which Berliners are eligible to apply for social housing, but his government is also reducing the number of social housing units that must be built each year.
Kai Wegner plans to increase WBS threshold
Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner, who took office back in April as leader of the city’s CDU-SPD coalition, has announced that his government will increase the threshold under which Berliners are eligible to apply for WBS.
WBS, or a Wohnungsberechtigungsschein, is a certificate of eligibility for social housing which people on low wages can receive. Currently, eligible recipients include single people with an annual income of 16.800 euros before tax or two-person households where the annual joint income is 25.200 euros or less. If residents meet these criteria they must then visit their local Bürgeramt where their income and finances are assessed to determine whether they qualify for the certificate.
Announcing the plans, Wegner said that in the current situation, 80 percent of people who are looking for a flat in Berlin will spend months hunting and still not find something that is both affordable and meets their needs.
While low-income earners are already eligible for the certificate, Wegner wants to expand eligibility to the “wider masses,” the centre-right politician told RND. “I don’t want to allow a scenario whereby a shop assistant or a policeman have to move out to Brandenburg because they can no longer afford to live in the city for which they work.”
What is the CDU doing to make housing affordable in Berlin?
Back in 2021, when the Berlin CDU was still the opposition to Franziska Giffey’s SPD-led, red-red-green coalition, the party promised that finding a solution to Berlin’s housing crisis was of the utmost importance, despite Merkel having done little at the federal level to mitigate the crisis in its earlier stages.
But since Giffey lost the capital’s re-election and Wegner took the reigns in office, the parties have reduced pressure on themselves to meet targets for building social housing in the German city. A new pledge to build an average of up to 20.000 new houses per year, which will include 5.000 social housing units, was announced back in April, and while this is the same level of construction promised by the former Giffey-led coalition, it is now a soft target to which the local government must not strictly adhere.
Despite increasing eligibility for social housing, Wegner also plans to cut back on the number of housing units that nationalised housing companies are required to build each year. Giffey’s initial SPD policy called for 35.000 new flats to be built in the next five years, equating to 7.000 new apartments per year. The CDU-SPD coalition by contrast has said it will require 6.500 units to be built each year.
What about the Berlin housing referendum?
Still looming in the background is Berlin’s Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen referendum result of 2021, which saw 59,1 percent of residents in the city vote to expropriate housing that was once owned by the state and bring it back into public ownership. An expert panel commissioned by the recently departed red-red-green coalition has found that implementing the referendum result would not violate the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz).
According to the CDU-SPD coalition agreement, now that the panel has decided that the referendum was constitutional the coalition must draw up a socialisation framework law to give guidelines on socialisation criteria and appropriate compensation for companies. However, the agreement also states that the law would “come into force two years after its promulgation,” which means that companies targeted by the referendum would have ample time to sell their holdings.
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