Moving Cities
Inspiring Approaches

BerlinImproved access to accommodation

What is inspiring?

Berlin has taken the national lead in the field of accommodation by improving access to housing for asylum seekers. It has done so by removing bureaucratic hurdles, establishing a central contact point for landlords, and offering them financial support. Normally, Germany has a three-step system for accommodating newly arrived refugees. At first, they are housed in central shelters owned by the federal states – of which Berlin is one. Refugees are then typically housed in shared accommodation overseen by the local council. In Berlin, this second step is skipped, with the city encouraging refugees to find private accommodation.

How does it operate?

If asylum seekers find a flat, they can move in much earlier than in other federal states. On average, they are formally released from mandatory initial accommodation after three months. Another thing that sets Berlin apart from other federal states is that housing costs of up to 750 euros per person, per month, are also covered during the asylum process, in accordance with the Asylum Seeker Benefits Act. The state has also created a central contact point for landlords wishing to rent accommodation to refugees.

What is new in 2023?

In January 2023, the former Senator for Integration, Katja Kipping, abolished the housing obligation for asylum seekers in reception centres. Asylum seekers who have already been distributed to Berlin and have found their own flat or room no longer have to stay in the collective accommodation. This "[...] means both a relief for the reception facilities of the LAF [State Office for Refugee Affairs] and a concrete improvement for the persons concerned. [...] Considering the difficult housing market in Berlin, this does not fundamentally solve the accommodation problem, but at least it allows asylum seekers a little more self-determination” says Katja Kipping. Berlin is the first federal state to make use of this possibility, which is granted by section § 49(2) of the Asylum Act.

Finding housing on the free market, however, is becoming increasingly difficult. In 2022, 30% fewer people were able to move from a shelter into a flat than in the previous year. At the same time, the number of arriving asylum seekers in 2022 rose to a record high of 94,727 people who were registered and provided with initial care in Berlin, 33,289 of whom came from Ukraine. In view of this, so-called Tempohomes and container villages were reactivated, as well as the MUF construction programme (Modular Refugee Accommodation), which provides for communal accommodation with lockable flats, own kitchens and bathrooms. There are 29 of these in operation in Berlin (as of February 2023).

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