Biggest German Landlord Seeks to Placate Renters After Protest

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s largest apartment owner responded to a backlash against rising rents in the country with a “reformulated” business philosophy highlighting how it helps provide more affordable housing.

The move by Vonovia SE comes amid a series of protests in several large cities including Berlin, where a movement is gaining momentum to nationalize chunks of the housing market by expropriating apartments from large landlords. While Vonovia didn’t address the Berlin movement directly, its statement does refer to “pressing socio-political questions.”

Vonovia doesn’t “speculate” with land or construction permits, building new homes “as quickly as possible” and taking advantage of public subsidies where possible to build affordable housing, it said Thursday. Modernizing apartments -- another point of criticism because it results in higher rents -- is done to help reduce energy consumption and protect the environment.

“There are no simple answers,” Chief Executive Officer Rolf Buch said in the statement. “But we want to be part of the solution.”

The company said it will cap rent increases for refurbished apartments at 2 euros per square meter, and pledged that older tenants won’t have to “worry about their livelihoods because of rising rents.” It said it built around 1,300 homes since the start of last year and currently offers affordable properties to around 1 million people in Germany.

“Our activities are never focused exclusively on financial aspects, but also take social factors into account,” Buch said.

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