Berlin’s skyrocketing housing costs and hipster proliferation

The above video by a Berliner complains about Berlin’s influx of hipsters, addressing them directly in its conclusion:

“Please stop to face your neighbourhood… it matters if you try to live in Neukölln or whether you just live your imported party here. Just because the fucked up free market economy expects us, for example, to satisfy your wishes because you have the money and the power (at least afterwards) even though you refuse to believe in this fact now because you prefer to feel poor.. but that’s not the truth and you know that.” The video’s observations echo this critique of hipster culture.

The Guardian takes a different view, blaming Berlin’s skyrocketing living costs and rapid gentrification not on hipsters or artists, but on a world financial crisis that caused those with capital to invest in property rather than in the stock market. It’s all in the title: “Berlin’s housing bubble and the backlash against hipster tourists:
Skyrocketing housing costs in Berlin can’t be blamed on an influx of ‘foreigners’, but are in fact fuelled by the global financial crisis.”

I think both analyses contain some truth. They’re concurrent and not unrelated problems. On the hipster side it points to some problems with the whole creative class/creative city argument, but haranguing hipsters into better behaviour is not a practical solution. The solution would be structural, a rights-based approach to housing policy. The Guardian writer concludes,”these are no natural forces. They can be kept in check with the right policies, like a cap on rents or laws against property speculation. Decent, affordable housing is a basic right, for locals as well as for international students, artists and layabouts.”

It is good to actually see housing actually being considered a human right in the press; the rights-based approach is mentioned far too seldom in the media let alone among policy-makers who have mostly been sucked into believing that private enterprise can fix the housing unaffordability problem. It can’t, and it won’t.

On the gentrification side, look at this critique of what’s happening to neighbourhoods in San Francisco and New York (High Line). Or hey, anything happening in Vancouver, a world capital of property-as-investment rather than property-as-shelter.

5 comments on "Berlin’s skyrocketing housing costs and hipster proliferation"

  1. The right to housing certainly seems like it should be a fundamental human right. One of the things that I haven’t seen addressed in the coverage of Mitt Romney’s “47%” talk is what he listed as the things that the layabout non-income tax paying people feel entitled to: “healthcare, food, housing”. Ummmm… yeah — what person isn’t entitled to those?

    1. Amen. And thank you for this comment, by the way. It is always heartening to have other bloggers back up this argument, particularly when we’re all in the interior design and shelter porn world. If if we have the privilege to talk about beautifying our homes all the time, we should also be advocating for those who don’t have or can barely afford a place to live. As for your point about Romney – no kidding! People being paid minimum wage by corporations profiting massively from their labour don’t deserve the right to fair pay or housing? Say what! R/Money is so out of touch with reality I’m surprised he’s not more worried about the pitchforks. Anyway, thanks.

  2. I guess civics education has largely failed. Or succeeded if the goal was to make people so uncaring and/or disenchanted and/or ignorant that they wouldn’t participate in public life to any meaningful extent. Sigh.

  3. I’ve seen the same sad old story in my local neighborhood in East London, a new shopping village of corporate ‘pop-up’ chain stores has been the final straw. Chain stores are the grim reaper for any vibrant low-rent area… It great that you guys think about these things, thats what the world needs! Else you end up with social housing that looks like it was designed for cattle not humans (we see ALOT of this in England) the only social housing thats stood the test of time seems to be the Victorian ones, which were mostly sold off thanks to Thatcher!

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