Black Market Grows for Refugee Housing: a class of real-estate hustlers has sprung up in Berlin


By Yassin Musharbash

As more and more refugees pour into Berlin, a class of real-estate hustlers has sprung up, extorting illegal fees from people desperate to find rent-controlled apartments.

The market for low-income housing in Berlin was tight even before the flood of refugees began arriving this summer. The rising demand is feeding a new, growing black market and class of illegal real estate agents.

These shady middlemen are charging immigrants fees – as much as €4,000, or $4500, according to some people – to sign contracts for rent-controlled apartments administered by the local government and housing authorities.

Justice officials in the German capital say they have not heard about the exploitation. Some immigrants, who requested anonymity, say the practice is common, however.

“Everyone I know who has recently found an apartment has paid for it,” said Ghassan, a refugee from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Ghassan, who lives in a single, 25-square-meter (269- square-foot) room, has been searching unsuccessfully for larger accommodation in Berlin since arriving with his wife and five-year-old daughter some two years ago.

Part of his difficulty may be Berlin’s growing illegal trade in apartment rental contracts aimed at refugees. The business in Arabic is known as “simsar” – which means “broker.” Such operators, also called “samasara,” are said to demand significant fees, which are illegal in Germany for public housing.

Read more here. (Original in Handelsblatt)