Gloria Biberger

Is it possible to be content renting long-term? This is what Australia can learn from housing around the world

PHOTO: Gloria Biberger and her partner plan to continue renting in Berlin for the next decade, as home ownership wouldn’t allow them the flexibility to travel.(Supplied)

Gloria Biberger has been renting the same apartment in Berlin’s lively Kreuzberg neighbourhood for 11 years.

And despite being a tenant, she says, “it feels like my home”.

“I know that I could stay here forever,” the 37-year-old said.

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Typically, tenants in Germany have freedom of decoration, with older and cheaper apartments even requiring you to bring your own light fixtures and kitchen sink.

“I want to feel very comfortable in my own home,” Ms Biberger said.

“That’s why it’s important that I can furnish and decorate it myself; I really want to feel like it’s my own thing.”

While Ms Biberger is happy in her current apartment, where under her open-ended lease she can only be evicted in very restricted circumstances – even if the apartment is sold – she’s on the hunt for a bigger place with her partner.

The couple hope to rent their next apartment for at least the next 10 years and have no desire to buy a property in the foreseeable future.

The lounge-room of Gloria Biberger''s Berlin apartment, with two large windows that stretch to the high ceiling.
Ms Biberger has been in the same rented apartment for 11 years and says she could have stayed indefinitely. (Supplied)

With strong tenant protections and unlimited leases, Ms Biberger is among the many Germans who remain content to rent.

More than 80 per cent of Berlin’s 3.7 million residents rent their home.

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Across the country, the home ownership rate stands at about 50 per cent, which is one of the lowest in Europe, according to market and consumer data firm Statista.

Despite rents increasing more substantially in recent years, Ms Biberger still feels better off renting than if she owned a home.

“Friends who have moved to the countryside to buy homes are envious when I tell them I’m going to the United States and travelling,” she said.

upward view of streets signs on the corner of Berlin street with an apartment block in the background.
Germany’s laws are broadly in favour of the tenant, with long leases and strict eviction requirements allowing renters to stay put long-term. (Reuters: Annegret Hilse)

A rethink of rights for Australia’s long-term renters

Australia’s obsession with home ownership has become a pipe dream for many, with skyrocketing rents making it near impossible for long-term renters to save for a home.

This year, tenants experienced their biggest annual rent increases since 2009, while house prices have been climbing twice as fast.

Housing experts say Australia is falling behind in providing a coordinated policy structure that offers stronger renter protections, long-term stability, and adequate funding for social housing.

“We haven’t had a national coordinated housing policy in Australia since 1992,” said Swinburne University professor of housing policy Wendy Stone.

Although there’s no model that can just be “picked off the shelf of another country”, there are a range of approaches that Australia could look to in order to reduce rental stress and improve the housing market overall.



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