Living space for workers: Urban planning industrial accident

Rents are rising rapidly in Gütersloh and the surrounding area. The reason: There is not enough suitable living space for workers of Tönnies and Co. A city tour with a real estate entrepreneur who has been earning well here for a long time.
[“Peter Sander gets out of the car and lets his gaze wander across the road. A quiet afternoon in Gütersloh, cars parked under trees, hardly any people. Sander’s destination: two semi-detached houses on the other side of the street. The facades shine white, the balcony partitions are made of frosted glass, the blinds are half lowered. This is where workers live who work for subcontractors of Tönnies, says Sander. There is a flower box in front of one window, and two umbrellas are attached to the balcony railing with brown adhesive tape as sun protection. Everything is in order, finds Sander. “]

The 35-year-old is a real estate entrepreneur, and the semi-detached houses are his. One half of the house has 153 square metres, five bedrooms, kitchen and living room on the ground floor, renovated two years ago, Sander rattles the facts down: “1,500 euros rent. That\’s not much for a renovated building with a garden.”

At least not in the Gütersloh district. Rents in the region have been rising for years. According to data from the Immoscout24 portal, the average rent in the district in the first quarter of 2020 was 6.93 euros per square metre – prices have risen by almost ten percent in three years. In some areas of Gütersloh or Rheda-Wiedenbrück up to twelve euros are common.

A lot of money for a hyphen city in North Rhine-Westphalia. The large butcher Tönnies has its headquarters here, the factories constantly need new workers. A network of subcontractors and agents brings thousands of Eastern Europeans to the region. They rent houses and convert them into mass accommodations in which a dozen people share bathroom and kitchen.

The consequences: rising rents, mutinous locals – and social conflicts that are intensifying. “Apartments are often overcrowded, which means that landlords can get considerably more rent,” says Ralf Brodda, managing director of the Tenants\’ Association of East Westphalia-Lippe: “And those who need affordable housing can\’t find any more.

Peter Sander is also part of this market. He allows insights into a system that here and there has overstepped the boundaries of legality and morality – and that even insiders can hardly overlook.

Sander – blonde hair, pink polo shirt, gold chain – arranged his first apartments when he was still at school, for his father Markus Sander, owner of DSI, one of the three largest subcontractors of Tönnies. Originally, the company prepared pay slips. Later, Markus Sander and a co-owner founded a sister company to employ workers. DSI does not respond to interview requests.

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