Berlin - You can't build your way out of a housing shortage if you don't build. 

The statistics office for Berlin and Brandenburg on Tuesday said approvals for new construction in Berlin - both residential and otherwise - are down 28.5 per cent in the first half of the year over the first six months in 2020 with at least one housing association blaming insufficient staff in government building departments as well as a hangover caused by Berlin's failed Mietendeckel rent control law.

Berlin approved 1,828 construction permits in the first half of the year, representing 9,148 flats.  

The figure includes approval for 7,403 new apartments in new multi-family construction, or nearly a third less than in the first six months of last year - a drop the statistics office said was "considerable". It also includes 770 new single-family homes and duplexes - an increase of 24.2 per cent over last year - as well as 893 apartments in existing construction such as attic conversions or residential conversion of commercial space - a drop of 25.3 per cent. 

Plan this year, build next

Maren Kern, head of the BBU association of Berlin-Brandenburg housing companies, said the figures were a "wake-up call." She said that although the half-year figures are often just an imprecise indicator, they show "the continuing lack in staffing and technical equipment at government building departments and, above all, the increasingly poor climate for new construction in the city."

Kern also blamed the city's failed rent cap which would have frozen rent on existing housing stock for five years. Planners had held off with new projects to see how the country's highest court would rule on the law, which it ending up striking down in the spring. What was not planned in 2020, she said, could not be approved in 2021.

Approvals for new construction in Brandenburg were up 19 per cent and the most new construction was given a green light in the outer Berlin boroughs of Spandau (2,464, or more than twice the 1,033 of the first half of 2020) and Treptow-Köpenick (1,681, down from 2,606 a year earlier).

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