Episode 2:
Buy Yourself Back

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By Lebogang Mokoena, Mandlenkosi Chinula, Heggar Maviza and John Namalenga Jnr.

Apart from housing conditions, rental gentrification is also affecting small-scale businesses. In this episode, we're visiting a handcraft shop in the district of Kreuzberg which future is insecure.

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It is a moderately cool weather after a rainy day in Gräfekiez, Kreuzberg - Berlin. There are all sorts of sounds: kids are playing and screaming at the Hohenstaufenplatz park, people are making their way to work or even already working, restaurants are ready to serve its customers, and bangs by construction workers busy in apartment renovations are loud.

Rental gentrification is a social/ urban development dilemma. Contested apartment ownership is part of the issue. Who owns the apartment determines the price tag.

Residents at Dieffenbachstrasse 29 organize themselves to resist the rising rent prices. They do this by creating campaigns, using social media and through starting activities in their community. While Berlin is generally known for being cosmopolitan and for its social culture, should rents consistently increase the ‘Kreuzberger Mischung’ will no longer exist. This means that the diversity of people from different backgrounds, cultures, incomes and professions would not be a part of Gräfekiez anymore. The unaffordability to pay rents pushes residents out of the city.

As part of preserving this ‘Kiez’, an organisation called Asum GmbH provides advisory services for tenants concerning apartment agreements and their housing situations.

An embroidery store owner, Christian runs his business called Stickbar in an apartment contested to be either bought by the municipality or an investor. He has been operating his store for 15 years since 2004 and is passionate about serving and engaging with his clients on what they like. He hopes the building is bought by the State rather than a private investor despite the fact that housing laws do not protect businesses. Many a time, property investors are only interested in making profit and in most cases at the expense of the social fabric of a community and its environment. By buying back the properties, the state guarantees that rents won't increase and in so doing supports the communities and reduces homelessness.

Increasing rents pose a challenge for small businesses like Christian’s Stickbar. Should this building be bought by an investor, Christian will have to move his business elsewhere.

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This multimedia documentary is part of the 2018/19 training cycle of the "Young African Journalists' Accelerator Program" (YAJAP) facilitated by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation South Africa and JournAfrica!.