Episode 3:
Katalin and the City

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By Karen Mwendera, Vimbai Beritah Chinembiri and Paulo Mendes.

What can a single person facing structural challenges in urban development? In this episode, we're visiting local politician Katalin Gennburg who's dedicating herself to a vision of inclusive urbanity.

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Katalin Gennburg could easily pass for a youthful Berliner interested in scourging the latest fashion trends on the globe. In this case that assessment is not even out of place. She is a politician who comes across as eccentric to other politicians. Youthful, colourful, a ready smile, interesting tights and sneakers (for the office) and a seemingly inconsistent nail colour – except, 35 year old Gennburg is not a simple person, she is a force to be reckoned with in urban planning in Berlin. A Leftist German politician and elected MP in the Berlin House of Representatives, Gennburg represents the Treptow-Köpenick constituency in the capital’s south-west.

‍Gennburgs’s campaign and work centres around a social urban development policy that fights skyscrapers and elitist buildings as well as spaces that push ordinary people away. Whatever reaches her desk will be about fighting for the reclamation of public spaces and cutting down tourism while ensuring that ordinary people and inhabitants enjoy social housing, green spaces, parks and gardens. The plans to pull down the Cinestar cinema on Elsenstraße and to have it replaced by a hotel and office skyscrapers irks her in particular.

“We don’t need any more hotels”, she says.

‍“The social housing burden is up to 60%. A hotel would require a proper parking concept, it would also create a new vertical elite city— all leading to increased rents around the area and further pushing away of the poor people from the city.”

‍Berliners are dealing with a housing crisis like many other global cities. Rentals are increasing every year and doubling every ten years. With a population of 3.7 million, the city is expected to exceed 4 million by 2025. According to Dr. Christine Scherzinger, a researcher and teacher at the Free University of Berlin, the capital is developing into a hub for science and research, and tech start-ups particularly for global players. Most millennials dream of settling in the city.

According to AFWC, out of 1.6 million rental units, only 600 000 are dedicated to social housing, half of which are owned by public housing companies. This is why Katalin Gennburg, fellow activists and ordinary Berliners are pushing for more social housing and a freeze on rental increases. The future that the Leftist politician wants for the city is a really simple one – a socially friendly Berlin.

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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!.