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 so 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 seemingly inconsistent nail colour, except—35 year old Gennburg is not so simple, she is a force to reckon within urban planning in Berlin. A Leftist German politician and elected MP in the Berlin House of Representatives, Gennburg represents the Treptow-Köpenick constituency.

Gennburgs’s campaign and work centres around a social urban development policymore skyscrapers and elitist building and spaces that push ordinary people away. On her desk everyday is fighting for the reclamation of public spaces and cutting down on the tourist gaze but ensuring ordinary people enjoy social houses, green spaces, parks and gardens. The plans to pull down the Cinestar cinema which lies on Elsenstraße to replace it with 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— the impact would be 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, the 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 Research and teacher at the Free University of Berlin the capital is developing into a hub for science and research, 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 social housing, half of these are owned by public housing companies.

This is why Gennburg, activists and ordinary Berliners are pushing for more social housing and a freeze on rental increases. For the Leftist wing politician, the future she 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!.