265 apartments in one fell swoop: Berlin’s Mitte and Neukolln districts have exercised their right of first refusal in the largest case to date.
Rally in Berlin under the slogan "Together against #Mietenwahnsinn" Photo: picture alliance/Soeren Stache/dpa
It was supposed to be a fat deal: A package of 3,700 apartments the Danish pension fund PFA wanted to buy in Germany for 1.2 billion euros. At least 265 apartments in Neukolln and Mitte are now likely to slip through PFA’s fingers. The two boroughs have exercised their right of first refusal – in Berlin’s biggest case to date.
The case involves 125 apartments on the corner of Seestrabe and Turiner Strabe in Wedding and 140 apartments on Thiemannstrabe and Bohmische Strabe in Neukolln. Because the properties are both located in the Milieu protection area, the boroughs had a right of first refusal. The PFA could only have averted this by signing an agreement in which it submitted to the goals of milieu protection and, for example, renounced luxury renovations. After such an averting agreement apparently failed to materialize, the districts this week asserted their right of first refusal.
Neukolln has some practice in this and, along with Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, is one of the districts with the most preemption cases. But while otherwise primarily individual properties with up to 30 apartments are protected from speculation, this purchase also has something special for the responsible city councilor Jochen Biedermann (Greens): "Almost an entire street was to be sold here – here we have finally arrived at Monopoly." Already in mid-November, he had invited the approximately 300 tenants to an information event. The tenants had then organized themselves and even made themselves heard in the Danish media.
The pressure is on
Such commitment is important, "but should not have a decisive influence on the exercise of the right of first refusal," says Biedermann. His administration has been examining every single case for a year and a half – with combined forces and a half position that has been misappropriated. The pressure is on. "We are up against professional real estate law firms, we can’t afford a technicality," Biedermann says. Starting in February, he plans to create a full position to accommodate the change in urban development policy in terms of personnel.
If the PFA does not file an objection within a month, the state-owned companies WBM (Wedding) and Stadt & Land (Neukolln) will become owners of the 256 apartments. The Senate will subsidize the purchase, but Biedermann says the exact purchase amount will not be made public until the final deal.