If politicians of whatever hue in the UK want inspiration as to what to do next with the housing market, they might take a look at Berlin.
Here, the city is poised to impose a five-year freeze on rents starting in 2020.
It is due to become law in January and will apply to about 1.4m properties. It will not apply to either social housing or new-builds.
It is also set to be backdated to June 18 to stop landlords pushing up rents ahead of the freeze.
Rents in Berlin have been rising – doubling in the last decade – with the average for a furnished flat now about £983.
This is cheap by London standards: a typical two-bedroom flat in Southwark costs £1,573 a month.
The Berlin plan has been approved by the city’s Senate, but the Berlin regional parliament has yet to vote on it.
Tellingly, however, German finance minister Olaf Scholz has voiced his support for the freeze, saying that it is necessary to stop Berlin ending up “like London”.
He said: “If we don’t want to end up like London, where even lawyers and doctors have to live with flatmates because they can’t afford their own apartment, then we have to do something about it.”
Other cities in Germany could follow Berlin’s example.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to agree that there is a squeeze on affordable housing, but that the solution is to build more homes.
Critics of the plan say that landlords would stop improving, and investing in, properties.
According to UK room share platform Ideal Flatmate, a five-year freeze on rents could save tenants across London an average of £7,620, and across England as a whole £5,274.
In some cities – Cambridge, Bristol, Manchester, Oxford and Newcastle – the saving would run into five figures. For example, in Oxford a rent freeze would save tenants an average of £17,746 over the next five years.
The projections are based on rental growth over the last five years.
Tom Gatzen, co-founder of Ideal Flatmate, said that the saving could go some way towards a mortgage deposit.
He added: “Any pro-tenant initiative can, of course, be viewed as a positive, but the mere suggestion of a rental rate freeze in Berlin seems to have sent the property market into meltdown.
“There is every chance that the same could happen here as a recent string of government changes to the buy-to-let sector have already diminished landlord confidence levels.”
Indeed, it is worth noting that shares in Germany property firms have plummeted.
But could it really happen here?