Until I read this article, I didn't know some places had developed legislative tools to address gentrification. In Berlin, the so-called milieuschutz is a law that aims to protect the existing social fabric of the city by regulating the modernisation of buildings. The idea is to forbid some renovations, like installing luxurious bathrooms or major changes of floor plans such as splitting or merging flats.
In London, this law would simply not work. However, there are a couple of things we could learn or at least aspire to.
1. Have you ever lived in a 5-bed place, which used to be a 3-bed flat, for an extortionate rent? If you're a Londoner, that's quite likely. There is a reason why flats are designed in a certain way, and London's councils could keep a closer eye on the no.1 dodgy landlord practice of splitting flats.
2. The milieuschutz focuses on luxury renovations, that aim to attract more well-off tenants. In London, tenants often get priced out when basic heath and safety upgrades are made. People who pay affordable rents often live in sub-standard accommodation. Children grow up in mouldy properties and it seems that there are no real mechanism to protect them.
3. London has a healthy social mix in its neighbourhoods, and I immediately loved that about the city when I first moved from (relatively) segregated Paris. Maybe we Londoners should be louder in saying how much we love the social mix and want to protect it? I have lived in fast-gentrifying areas, and they do get less relaxing and pleasant after a while...
“He wanted to put in under-floor heating, to change the floor plans, to insulate the walls, to install solar panels – you name it,” he says. The measures would apparently have led to a more-than-threefold increase in his rent, from €600 to €2,000. “My wife and I both work, so we might have been able to afford it – but for our neighbour it would have meant paying 85% of her wages towards rent. She would have been forced out.” Martin is relieved his neighbourhood building inspectorate warned the owner that the upcoming milieuschutz would mean he could not carry out the measures.