Europe's struggle with soaring rents

Housing shortages, low interest rates and real estate speculation have been causing rents in Europe's big cities to skyrocket in recent years. In many places people are taking to the streets to protest. In Portugal and Berlin new laws have been proposed to stop the trend. Can they work?

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Zeit Online (DE) /

Rent cap the right instrument for Berlin

Zeit Online approves of the Berlin state government's freezing rents for around 1.5 million apartments in Berlin for five years:

“For a long time now the people of Berlin have been earning far too little to keep up with the rent increases in their city. If you draw one line representing the trend for rents and another for incomes, they increasingly diverge: with salaries at the bottom and housing costs at the top. ... This can't work in the long run without jeopardising social peace in the German capital. ... Those who want to stop this trend must take resolute action. For Berlin capping rents is the right instrument at the right time. Other German states should watch the legal confrontation over this issue closely. If the law goes through it could serve as a model for others.”

Observador (PT) /

Portuguese rent scheme is just a fairy tale

A state programme came into force in Portugal on 1 July that aims to ensure affordable rents. Landlords who take part in the scheme will receive tax benefits if in return they offer their accommodation at rates 20 percent below market prices. This is just a scam, Observador comments:

“The so-called 'affordable' rents are scandalous. The majority of citizens don't have the means to pay rents of 600 to 700 euros, never mind the more than 1,000 euros that were stipulated for the cities of Lisbon and Porto. ... Participants in the scheme will soon realise that they have become extras in yet another fairy tale aimed at deceiving everyone. The houses and apartments people are looking for don't exist, and the tax advantages won't compensate for the resulting difficulties.”