16-12-16 OPEN LETTER TO THE SENATE OF BERLIN FOR A JUST PROCEDURE FOR ANDREJ HOLM, STATE SECRETARY OF HOUSING IN BERLIN
We, the researchers, scholars and members of the International Network for Urban Research and Action, welcome the new Senate of Berlin committing to address a pressing concern of Berliners: the need for affordable housing. Adequate housing provision has become increasingly out of reach for many residents – not only in Berlin. Today, the lack of affordable decent housing, the upgrading of urban centers, displacement pres-sures and homelessness for low-income groups are global phenomena. These are big challenges for cities but research has shown that local governments can make a difference in alleviating the exclusionary ef-fects of market distribution of housing. For this task local governments need to harness the expertise and political will in order to devise and implement new regulations that protect tenants and new investment in fair housing production.
We are therefore gravely concerned about the media-driven political delegitimation campaign towards Dr. Andrej Holm who has been ap-pointed as secretary of state for housing by the Berlin Senate.
This does not appear to be a coincidence. Dr. Holm is an internationally renown scholar who has advanced critical research on housing devel-opments and gentrification. His research has contributed to our understanding of the dynamics of market and government forces at play, and he has advanced urban research by developing instruments for measur-ing and quantifying the effects of gentrification. Furthermore, Dr. Holm stands out prominently as public intellectual who, over the years, has offered his expertise to public and political dialogue and debates – while at the same time not shying back from questioning the prevalent rules of the game that have contributed to segregation and social problemes. Holm has proposed constructive policy reforms to address problems of gentrification and segregation through innovative policies and regulations for the housing market.
If the new Berlin Senate is committed to fulfill its central promise of housing as a basic right for all Berlin residents, it will profit tremen-dously by the critical, committed and progressive thinking Dr. Holm brings to designing and implementing adequate new policy.
The current attacks on Dr. Andrej Holm seek to de-legitimize his role as new secretary of state for housing by highlighting his training with the GDR secret police when he was a teenager. Of course it is a necessary routine procedure to investigate the involvement in detail as a basis for a democratic decisionmaking process. But a fair investigation takes time and there is no evidence that his involvement included activities that harmed anybody. The basic principle of presuming innocence until any deeds are proven must be attained. The current inflammatory media campaign is not conducive for a fair and democratic process of deliberation.
Almost ten years ago, INURA stepped up to protest against accusations against Dr. Holm, which turned out to be completely unfounded. Once again we demand from the political representatives of Berlin govern-ment to provide fair and considerate treatment to evaluate the accusa-tions against Andrej Holm and to withstand preemptive judgement. We cannot allow the premature eviction of critical and progressive voices from the political debate on how to ensure affordable housing for all in Berlin. We encourage all political actors in Berlin to withstand efforts that seek to maintain existing inequalities and to stay the course to achieve more just cities. We know in this work Dr. Holm has an im-portant contribution to offer.
Researchers, Scholars and Members of the International Network for Urban Research and Activism, INURA