Green target conflict: Climate vs. tenant protection

Can climate goals be matched with the political agenda of Red-Red-Green in Berlin? The goal conflict of the Berlin Greens is getting worse. A status report.

by Peter Guthmann Published on:

Climate and building sector

In Berlin, the federal government has agreed on a climate packet ("Klimapaket"). In addition to the price increases for diesel and gasoline, the core elements of the climate protection program 2030 also include a ban on new oil heating systems. Overall, the building sector plays an important role in the climate change. In Germany, 120 million tons of CO2 emissions per year come from the building sector. In 2030, 72 million tons of CO2 may still be emitted per year. This means that 48 million tons have to be saved, which cannot be achieved with existing instruments. With the Energy Saving Ordinance 6 ("Energieeinsparverordnung 6") and KfW promotional programmes, emissions ("KfW Förderprogramme") will at best fall to around 90 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030. The shortfall of around 18 million tons is to be remedied by a combination of support measures, information and advice, CO2 pricing and regulatory law.

The situation in Berlin

There are no figures available for Berlin that would make it possible to extrapolate the building's share of CO2 emissions from the emissions block for households, trade, commerce and services. According to the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Businesses, the block accounts for 65.4 percent of total emissions with 13.0 million tons of CO2. This is also where the greatest savings potential is to be found.

The Green Party in conflict between milieu protection and climate

The Greens in Berlin are dissatisfied with the goals of the climate package. Berlin's Green Vice-Mayor and Economics Senator Ramona Pop considers the focus on CO2 taxation and the increase in the commuter benefit to be unambitious. There were also no concepts in the agricultural sector. The Berlin Greens are reluctant when it comes to statements about the emissions caused by the building structure in Berlin. The conflict of objectives between conservation statutes/turnaround agreements and climate targets is now becoming a problem. In milieu protection areas, almost all energetic measures that are not mandatory by law are faced with considerable to unmanageable bureaucratic and economic hurdles, which is why urgently needed investments in the energetic renewal of real estate portfolios are missing.

How green are the Berlin Greens?

Only a few days after the climate package, Berlin's Green Environment Senator Regine Günther suggested declaring a climate emergency ("Klimanotstand") in Berlin. When the obstacles to Berlin's energetic modernisation bear the signature of Green politicians, but at the same time the call for a climate emergency is made, the contradiction of Green policy in the capital is evident. Instead of exposing themselves to the politically sensitive terrain of the building sector, the Berlin Greens prefer to focus on the transport sector, where measures quickly become visible and pay off in form of a popularity bonus. Although the proportion of CO2 emissions and thus the savings potential is considerable here as well, it is not surprising that the Green Party is also focusing on the transport sector. However, the concentration on this does not hit the core of the original green topic in the big city of Berlin with a housing stock of almost 2 million units in about 327,000 buildings.

Senate does not want to upgrade energy systems

By European standards, Germany is already lagging behind when it comes to modernising the energy efficiency of its housing stock. According to a report by the IW (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft, here), in order to achieve the climate targets, about twice as many apartments per year would have to be comprehensively upgraded than at present. On average for Germany as a whole, Berlin is below average with a modernisation and partial modernisation rate of approx. 6 percent of the stock per year. Even before the extensive introduction of milieu protection areas in Berlin, there was not much modernisation, but now the statutes of conservation ("Erhaltungsatzungen") actively oppose almost any kind of energy modernisation. Consequently, the political goals are counteracted by bans on modernization in the protection of the milieu and the climate protection goals for a climate-neutral building stock in the long term. The provisions of § 172 of the BauGB stipulate that permits must be granted if the minimum requirements of the Energy Saving Ordinance ("Energieeinsparverordnung") are met. However, further energy improvements are at least made more difficult, but in most cases blocked. A further complicating factor is that the permit practice can vary from district office to district office depending on political premises and is therefore hardly predictable for owners. In this way, a socially superior climate target is brought to the lowest administrative level and subordinated to the political will of the departments that are technically overburdened. Owners who nevertheless wish to modernise their energy systems are obliged to prove that the aim of the measures is to fulfill minimum EnEV requirements; the savings to be expected by tenants must also be proven. Both is very difficult in practice. Residents influence consumption through their behaviour. Savings in heating costs are therefore hardly calculable and even less verifiable.

Tenants must be prepared to increasing costs

In addition to the obligation to obtain approval for modernizations in environmental protection, a rent cap would add a further component to the conflict of objectives between tenant protection and climate protection. An additional hurdle in the form of long-term fixed rents would further reduce the incentive for landlords to invest in the portfolio. If reasonable energy modernizations are not carried out, the existing stock will not only be eroded, from which tenants suffer, there will also inevitably be rising heating costs. In addition to the increase in energy prices decided on in the climate package, the direct costs will also rise as a result of an inventory that is getting worse instead of better in energy terms. Even if rents for new rentals are capped below the previously permitted values from the rent index ("Mietspiegel") and the rent brake ("Mietpreisbremse"), future apartments will at best be subject to paintwork modernization before new rentals are made. Energy-saving measures, such as new windows or the replacement of heating systems, will not be implemented if rents are capped for an unforeseeable period of time, even if they could in principle be approved in accordance with the maintenance statutes. The consequence would be that heating and operating costs, which have been stable to declining in recent years due to the low cost of gas and oil, would rise again more strongly in the future. The portion of the net cold rent frozen by state measures would be eaten up by the rising ancillary costs. The most unfavourable scenario for tenants would result in an immediate jump in rent prices after the expiry of the regulatory modalities, which would run up against an energetically unmodernised stock.

Milieu protection and rent cover. Can it get any worse for the housing stock?

In fact, the answer to that question is yes. Because the restrictions resulting from the obligation to obtain approval for modernisation in conservation statutes ("Erhaltungssatzungen") will be even more severe if there is a change of owners in protected areas. In the avoidance agreements ("Abwendungsvereinbarungen"), which a buyer must sign with the district if he wants to avoid a pre-emptive purchase, energetic measures are completely excluded for a period of 20 years from the date of purchase if they are not stipulated by law. To illustrate the case: If an owner wants to replace old windows, this would also be an energy modernisation. Since the replacement was excluded from the mandatory measures of the EnEV, the owner would violate the averting agreement, even if he would carry out the replacement as a refurbishment and without a cost allocation to the tenants. The same would apply to façade thermal insulation.