Conversion to condominiums: milieu remains protected

Rental apartments in milieu protection areas may still only be converted into property with permission. Pre-emption rights remain a problem.

The conversion ordinance works, says building senator Katrin Lompscher (Left) Photo: picture alliance/Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

The conversion ban in milieu protection areas will remain in place for the time being. Also in the next five years, rental apartments in so-called social preservation areas may only be converted into condominiums under certain conditions. It is still known that there is a tight housing market in Berlin, said Urban Development Senator Katrin Lompscher (Left) on Tuesday at the Senate press conference.

The ordinance is based on an authorization under federal law, every five years, the state government must re-justify the ordinance. "We are finding that the conversion ordinance is having an effect," Lompscher said. For example, while in 2015 in the then existing milieu protection areas – mainly areas in the eastern inner city ring -, 5,163 rental apartments were still converted into property, in 2018 there were only 1,301 apartments in the same area. That is still a minus of 75 percent.

In total, just under 13,000 rental apartments were converted into owner-occupied apartments in Berlin in 2018 – of which around 5,200 apartments were located in milieu protection areas. By far the most common reason why the districts have to approve the conversion there anyway: If the owner grants tenants a right of first refusal for their apartments for seven years, the district office must give the green light. A Bundesrat initiative initiated by Berlin wanted to change the passage in the building code, but failed to find a majority, especially with the CDU-led states.

At least Lompscher saw there on Tuesday but a "glimmer of hope" on the horizon. After all, Federal Minister of Construction Horst Seehofer (CSU) had commented on the adoption of the rent cap in the House of Representatives last week with the words that one must also think about the conversion of rental apartments into property.

According to Lompscher, the rent cap, i.e. the freezing of rents for five years and caps on new rentals, has not yet led to increased "conversion tendencies" because renting is no longer lucrative. However, the rent cap has only just been passed and is yet to officially come into force.

A total of 900,000 Berliners live in 59 milieu protection areas. Two more are to be added soon: one in Reinickendorf, and a first protected area for Spandau.