Sebastian Czaja is the top candidate of the Berlin FDP. He dreams of the opportunity metropolis Berlin. In an interview with t-online, the politician explains how he intends to achieve this after the election to the House of Representatives in September.
In the middle of the election campaign before the parliamentary elections in Berlin on September 26, FDP – top candidate Sebastian Czaja spoke with t-online about the biggest political construction sites in Berlin.
There are quite a few of them. But living, transport and education are particularly important to him. He reveals how he envisions the development of Tempelhofer Feld and why cheaper local transport is not an option for Berlin.
Mr. Czaja, we are starting directly with one of the largest construction sites in Berlin: living. The rent cap failed. For you it wasn’t the right path for Berlin anyway. What is your suggestion to defuse the situation for the citizens?
Sebastian Czaja: The rent cap has led to absolute chaos on the housing market in recent months. Tenants in the city have experienced extreme uncertainty. He does not create a single new apartment. Our counter-proposal is therefore a rent-lowering new building offensive that Berlin urgently needs. Because: There is a shortage of 200,000 apartments in the city that we want to build by 2030.
But there are still almost 10 years to go until 2030 … What helps acutely?
The new building is of course a medium and long-term measure. Building takes time. The question remains: How can we help now? For example, by switching from object to subject funding, among other things. That means that we no longer want to put the money in concrete, but in those who need support.
Sebastian Czaja in conversation with t-online: The 38-year-old grew up in Berlin-Mahlsdorf. His older brother Mario Czaja is a CDU politician in Berlin. (Source: V. Saizew)
How does this concept work?
In property funding, the state gives money for building projects. Then quarters and quarters are created for a certain clientele, depending on how much money is invested there. We want to break through that and achieve a social mix by turning towards the individual. The aim is that everyone can live anywhere in the city and have a permanent home – in the event of a private economic crisis, the person would receive monetary support from the state and would not have to move to another cheaper area.
Sounds like a big change in direction
It is a plan and a different political direction. It is interesting that the left and the Greens do not share this direction. That is why we advocate a new style of politics. We want to have a constructive cooperation and bring all players from the rental initiatives through the construction industry to one table.
Now a referendum is coming up in Berlin, which under certain circumstances could again cause a lot of uncertainty: about the expropriation of large real estate groups. It’s no secret that the FDP is against it. Why?
First, I don’t know of any reference point in history where the expropriation of entire industries has been helpful or has led to anything good. Second: This expropriation costs 36 billion and that exceeds the entire state budget, which is 32 billion. Thirdly, once again not a single new apartment is being built in the city. It tends to lead to social tensions because the state budget will lack the means for social infrastructure. We have to build schools and daycare centers. We have to modernize the administration, we saw in the pandemic how important the topic of digitization is. Everywhere there will be a lack of funds just because of ideological expropriations want to implement. This is completely the wrong way to solve the housing crisis. With us there will be no expropriation.
But you want to initiate another referendum yourself, namely to develop the Tempelhofer Feld. At the time, most were against it. How do you imagine that?
We would like to develop the current fallow land into an area with quality of stay: namely 200 hectares of open space as a biotope and 100 hectares on the Tempelhofer Rand for around 12,000 apartments – one third municipal, one third cooperative and one third private.
And who should this living space be for?
Our impression is that there is a lack of living space in this city, especially in the middle. The apartments are not for those who benefit from the housing entitlement certificate and not for those who belong to the luxury segment. I’m about the nurse, the nurse. I think of the nurses, a policewoman, the firefighter. There was a final referendum on this issue, but it came about when we weren’t even under pressure on the housing market. That is why more than 60 percent of Berliners would rate the topic completely differently from today’s perspective – and say: “Yes. Why not?”
The CDU also wants to use magnetic levitation trains for the development of such new residential areas. Do you think that is a concept that can work?
I always find new technologies exciting and we shouldn’t have taboos in our thinking. So why not? We also suggested thinking the city in three dimensions when it comes to the traffic challenges. On the one hand, we want to push ahead with the expansion of the subway. We also have the opportunity to create underground parking space to get stationary traffic out of the streets. We also considered modifying the last few kilometers with a cable car in the city. Other cities do the same. Why shouldn’t that work in Berlin?
Do you think local transport needs to be cheaper to encourage people to change trains?
Making local transport cheaper means spending less money on cleanliness and safety. That would be counterproductive and deterrent. The offer has to be right, then people switch from the car to the train. I am mainly talking about the outskirts here. This needs to be expanded.
What do you want to expand first?
At the moment we have the privilege of the inner S-Bahn ring. And we want to break through that. In the outskirts there is hardly an offer after 10 p.m. or only one that I have to wait half an hour for. But all Berliners are privileged and should have proper public transport.
Keyword Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region: There is still a lot to be done in this cooperation. Especially in the area of traffic …
It is indeed an important issue for us, also for the next decade. We must finally get a better, qualified cooperation with Brandenburg. We now have almost 400,000 commuters a day between the regions. The economically large settlements have taken place in Brandenburg in recent years: Tesla with 12,000 new jobs, then the expansion of the Rolls-Royce location and the opening of the BER airport. All of these are settlements that attract traffic. That is why local public transport, but also the expansion of motorways, must be taken into account.
You already mentioned the topic of digitization in Berlin. There is a lot of catching up to do, especially in schools.
We have to save and expand the tender plant of digitization that arose in the pandemic. We have all experienced it: The new way of dealing with digital instruments was a learning curve for all of us. It must not be interrupted now. More technical equipment has to be found and invested. But we also want to employ a digital caretaker in the schools. After all, what good is the best technology if you don’t know how to use it correctly?
The air filter systems in schools are also much discussed in the pandemic so that lessons can take place safely again. What’s wrong?
It has to end with “school open, school closed”. We need reliable regular operations. We ourselves proposed the air filter as early as June 2020. Now at least some have been bought, but nowhere near enough. I also get letters from schools in which I am told that there are air filters in the gym because the electricity grid is insufficient to connect them all. This also describes the structural condition of our schools.
So, is another lockdown to protect the children a likely consequence?
If it came to that, it would be an expression of the failure of the government in Berlin, which is responsible for it. The aim of the FDP is to prevent this lockdown. We now need constant regular operation again, no more back and forth. We want to ensure that safe learning is possible in school.
Learning is only possible if there are enough teachers on site. This has not been the case in Berlin for a long time. Numerous lessons are canceled. What has to be done here?
In any case, it’s not just about expressing appreciation through salaries. Money is not everything. But what is being done to make the staff room a place where I can prepare and follow up lessons in order to improve the general work environment? So far, very little. We ensure that teachers also have a technical device and do not have to bring everything with them privately. In this way, the quality of teaching can increase again and one has more desire for lessons. Many teachers are sick because they are too stressed. That can also be broken with a better climate in the workplace. In the end, the money alone does not create a better working environment.
On September 26, the Berliners elect not only the German Bundestag, but also the Berlin House of Representatives and the district assemblies. For an overview of the positions and goals of the Berlin parties, t-online conducted interviews with the respective top candidates for the House of Representatives election.