rich vs poor city residents

Rich vs Poor City Dwellers



smack desirable smack-dab
major location commercial (2)
estate figure (3) estate agent
luxury renovate two-thirds
invest range (2) penthouse
unique wallpaper square meter
scare floor (3) all kinds of
site (2) disappear prospective
broker amenity an eye to the future
favor available to drive out
face (2) extensive displacement
trendy constitute up-and-coming
end up carry out exploitation
tenant damn (2) renovation
vacant solid (3) tailored (2)
burst property property bubble
scene parquet affordable
not yet faraway compared to
wage average in other words
set (2) long-term homogeneous
off to sense (3) in the sense that
exact snap up consultant
fitting paneling bubble (2)
sure it’s up to square (3)
meet position choose/chose/chosen
realize vision (2) meet my needs
needs area (2) more or less
overall basement dream (2)
put off surprise drive out (2)






Smack-dab in the center of Berlin — a most desirable location.

Malia wants to buy an apartment near the Brandenburg Gate. It’s the last major building site in this area. Estate agent, Nikolaus Ziegert is here to advise clients.

This is to become the site of luxury apartments. Two-thirds of them have already been sold.

Nikolaus Ziegert, Realtor: “The fact that there’s no building standing here yet is putting off neither our Berlin nor our international clients, who are preparing to invest in this unique location.

Prices range between four-and-a-half and ten-and-a-half thousand euros (€4,500 to €10,500).”

That’s per square meter.

For a penthouse on the top floor, you’re looking at about €2.3 million. Figures like that scare a lot of people — not so for Maria Jansen. She’s dying to live here with her husband, a management consultant. Her prospective neighbors are fashion designers and business people.

Maria Jansen, Potential Buyer: “Here you’ve got political Berlin and all kinds of cultural amenities within walking distance. And thinking with an eye to the future, it’s a solid investment.

Once the house is completed, I’m sure there won’t be any more flats available.”


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But not everyone is in favor of this development: these residents are afraid of being driven out of downtown areas like Wittenburg, Mitte or Neukolln.
One of them is Tom Haarbrucker.

Tom Haarbrucker, Tenant in Berlin’s Neukolln District: “We want to live in the center of town just like everyone else. And that’s what we’re fighting for — we’re fighting against displacement; against displacement and the commercial exploitation of people living in their own homes.”

Neukolln is one of Berlin’s trendiest, up-and-coming districts. Flats here are still affordable for students and young families.

Thirty-nine-year-old Tom Haarbrucker has been living here for four years. But now the building has been sold. It’s unclear whether the new owner will move in or carry out expensive renovations.

Tom Haarbrucker, Tenant: “Yeah, I get scared. I get scared that in the next few months I might end up in the streets. It’s damn hard to find a new apartment these days.”

But homebuyers in Berlin’s Wilmersdorf District don’t face these kinds of problems. This is a quiet area, not a trendy one.

Florian Torno wants to buy a one-hundred-fifty (150) square meter apartment, the last vacant one in the building. Nikolaus Ziegert, the broker, arrives on the scene.

In the past few months, the price has risen three times. The apartment costs just under five-thousand euroes (€5,000) per square meter.

But is this a property bubble soon to burst?

Nikolaus Ziegert, Realtor: “This doesn’t really constitute a bubble, because overall prices are still lower when compared to other German cities like Munich or Hamburg, as well as internationally. Berlin has not yet reached the levels of other capital cities.”

In other words, prices are set to rise even further, despite the fact that wages here are lower than elsewhere.


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Tom Haarbrucker pays about five-hundred euros €500 a month for his fifty square meter apartment. That includes heating. He works as a chef and couldn’t afford an increase in rent.

In the last few years, rents in Berlin have risen by an average of more than thirty percent (30%).

Tom Haarbrucker, Tenant: “Things are becoming homogeneous in the sense that only people who can afford it are living here, and in the sense that everything else is disappearing — especially the reason people come here.”


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Meanwhile in the city center, Maria Jansen is off to have a look at the exact location of the apartment still to be snapped up. She’s surprised to find that many have already been sold.

Parquet floors, shower fittings, paneling or wallpaper, it’s all up to the buyer.

It’s only the best here: they can even choose where they’d like their walls and doors positioned.

Maria Jansen, Potential Buyer: “If I’m investing this much money, I want to be sure the property meets all my needs. It’s important to me that my vision for this space can be realized. In other words, that it’s more or less tailored for my daily life — for my needs.”


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For these people, the idea of a tailored apartment is a faraway dream. They’d be happy to find any affordable apartment in Berlin. A forty square meter (40 m2) room in the basement for five-hundred euros (€500)?

It’s not exactly luxury.

Potential Renter: “I’ve seen one-room flats going for six-hundred-fifty euros (€650) that were complete dimes that you’d have to renovate and all. We’ve been looking for a long time.”

And things seem to be getting worse: more and more long-term tenants in the city center are being driven out.


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1. Everyone wants to live in the suburbs of Berlin, not the inner city. True or false?

2. Do clients (buyers) simply pay the seller for a property, or do they (usually) go through a middleman or agent?

3. The city of Berlin is going to build public housing (social housing) in the center of Berlin. Is this right or wrong? Are the new residents working-class individuals?

4. Have there been protests and demonstrations in Berlin? Who are protesting? Why are they demonstrating?

5. How does Tom Haarbrucker (the chef) feel? Is he relaxed or apprehensive and anxious? Why does he feel this way?

6. Describe the prices and costs of housing in the center of Berlin. What has been the trend?

7. What may happen in the future? Will Berlin remain the same, or will it change dramatically?


A. Do you sympathize with the current (working-class) tenants and renters, the new property buyers, both, neither, in the middle, it depends?

B. Is the housing situation in your city similar to that of Berlin (or London, Paris)? Are house prices and rent increasing, decreasing or remaining the same?

C. Have there been changes over the decades?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What should people do?

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