John visits the spruced-up home of some local gorillas and in the wildly political world of zoo housing, finds parallels to Berlin’s housing situation – if animals paid rent.
Sure, technically Germany has lots of laws protecting us from unreasonable rent increases. Rents can only go up by 15 percent every three years and are further constrained by the ortsübliche Vergleichsmiete, the average local rent in the neighborhood. But devious renters have plenty of ways to gouge us despite the laws.
On Wednesday, the Berlin Zoo opened a brand-new jungle gym for its four western lowland gorillas, one of whom, Fatou, is now the oldest gorilla in the world at over 60. Of course it’s amazing to watch a 400kg silverback gracefully walk along a balance beam. When the gorillas got to try out their new playground for the first time, the Zoo offered a Facebook livestream (part 1, part 2, part 3).
But I kept wondering: Are the gorillas victims of gentrification?
Rich neighbours can screw you over. Since rent controls are based on a local average, every time a new luxury apartment building opens, the rents can go up a bit for everyone.
And the gorillas are particularly unlucky: Pandas just moved in next door. Personally, I’m not a fan of these oversized bamboo rats. But in the world of zoo animals, these are the Russian oligarchs.
The panda’s condo cost almost €10 million – even though they never do anything besides lie on their couch and munch bamboo, interrupted by occasional naps.
Another trick for jacking up the rent is called Luxussanierung. That means renovating an apartment and adding all kinds of “luxury” features. Then the owner can argue this is a totally new apartment and double the rent.
Is this what’s happening to the gorillas? Sure, the new playground is nice. But are they going to have to pay twice as much? Ivo, the only male, has three wives to provide for! And carrots aren’t getting any cheaper!
Some persistent renters have got around these kinds of rent hikes by proving they don’t use the new “luxury” features in their apartments. For example, permanently sealing the door to a new balcony.
That seems to be the plan of the chimpanzees. They also got a new “luxury” playground, and they’ve been refusing to even touch it all week. Are they planning to fight a rent increase in court?
Gentrification is affecting everyone in Berlin. We need to fight for affordable housing for all apes!