Germany: New 128-apartment social housing complex exclusively reserved for asylum seekers in Berlin

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

A Berlin housing association is scheduled to complete its latest block of social housing apartment buildings in the German capital next spring, but they are currently reserved exclusively for use by asylum seekers, it has emerged.

The 128-apartment complex on Askanierring in the Spandau borough is expected to be opened by the Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Berlin-Mitte (WBM) housing association in May 2024, but will first serve around 570 refugees expected to move in indefinitely before it is available for Berliners currently on the social housing waiting list.

WBM Managing Director Dormeyer recently praised the project as “contributing to the integration of refugees” and saw no issue in the accommodation first being reserved for new foreign nationals arriving in Berlin. He insisted that the complex will eventually become a “long-term attractive living space for all Berliners.”

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A spokesperson confirmed, however, that “there is currently no date when the first Berliners can move in.” This appeared to be a line echoed by local politicians, including the spokesperson for Building Senator Christian Gaebler (SPD), who told local press that “it is not possible to give an exact date. That depends on how long the apartments are needed as refugee accommodation.”

Speaking to the B.Z. newspaper, one Christian Democrat (CDU) opposition MP called the move “totally unbelievable” and called on local government to ensure that the apartments are available for Berliners in need “after three years at the latest.”

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The move is the latest social housing project planned by WBM that will explicitly, albeit temporarily, exclude ordinary Berliners; another project was announced in June for a 72-apartment complex “in the best inner-city location” that will be reserved for female senior citizens who identify as lesbian or bisexual.

One silver lining is that the accommodation will actually be occupied by someone at least, unlike in other areas of the country where renovation projects have used up hundreds of thousands in taxpayer cash only for apartments to remain empty.

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One disused hotel in Sipplingen, near Lake Constance in southern Germany, remains empty, even though the local government signed a nine-year lease back in 2015 with the goal of renovating the accommodation for asylum seekers.

The local administration, overseen by District Administrator Lothar Wölfle (CDU), committed to a rental agreement worth €800,000 for the hotel, but after realizing the property needed renovations to make it habitable, they simply abandoned the project. Meanwhile, they are still paying rent.

“There was no exit clause from the rental agreement,” a spokesman told the Bild newspaper, claiming “the owners had more leverage at the time” in what was a “tight real estate market.”

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