“Die Häuser denen, die drin lesen!” is scrawled across posters in shopwindows up and down the main street of SO36, the eastern, scruffier part of Kreuzberg. That’s the rallying cry in defense of a bookstore on Oranienstraße that has become a neighborhood institution… and is now facing eviction after 24 years.
After living here for going on 17 years, it’s no longer just speculators buying up neighborhoods that’s getting me down. But more of that later. First, updates on housing issues I wrote about in early November 2020: the Mietendeckel or rent cap, the machinations of Heimstaden, the big Swedish housing company that bought thousands of Berlin apartments in one fell swoop, and the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen referendum campaign. I also write about important issues in my Reichenberger Kiez (neighborhood in Kreuzberg).
While we have been locked down – or quarantined – or sick – for the past several months, investors in Berlin’s housing market have been doing just fine! The COVID-19 pandemic has not put any brakes on them. In fact, according to the real estate portal Immoscout, prices for apartments in Berlin rose a handsome 12.5 per cent in 2020 – more than anywhere else in Germany. An Engel & Völkers [real estate] Investment Consulting study from the first days of 2021 predicts that investors will continue to buy and pay even more. There is no danger of real estate prices falling!
In contrast, the IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt union for workers in construction, engineering, recycling, gardening and related jobs says reduced working hours (Kurzarbeit), layoffs, expiring temporary employment contracts, and the elimination of 450-€-per-month “mini-jobs” are swelling demand for social housing. The number of low-income households will rise, and tens of thousands of people will lose their homes. In December 2020, union president Robert Feiger told the Berliner Zeitung: “In the last five years, the number of social housing units in Germany has fallen by more than 43,000 each year. Five social housing units disappear from the market every hour, one every 12 minutes. By the end of the year, there will be less than 1.1 million social housing units.”
Politicians don’t appear to notice the urgency. But this is an election year. This is our chance.
On 23 November 2020, the city rent cap took effect, forcing Berlin landlords who charge illegally high rents to lower them or face stiff fines. That same day, according to RBB 24’s Efthymis Angeloudis, Berlin’s two largest for-profit housing companies, Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, announced that until a ruling is made on the rent cap’s legality this spring, they will halt all energy modernizations and construction. Deutsche Wohnen had to reduce rents for some 37,000 apartments, one third of its housing stock, prompting a spokesperson to say that in expectation of losing 30 million € in 2021, the company is deferring energy renovation and construction projects worth 1 billion €. Hunh? Vonovia claims it can no longer afford to finance modernizations because it, too, must lower rents in a third of their apartments (around 14,600 units) and anticipates annual losses of 10 million €. Investors need not worry, though: Dividends for both corporations will not take a hit!
Although large, profit-oriented housing companies claim to be stopping modernizations yet ensuring maintenance, this represents a significant and surprising change in behavior. Deutsche Wohnen in particular has often neglected upkeep, which it has to fund, while long-term disregard makes “modernization” necessary – and at least some of that expense can be passed along to the tenant.
Berlin’s six housing societies (Wohnungsbaugesellschaften), which own around 11.5 per cent of its housing stock, are expected to notice only slight short-term effects of the rent cap although they say that in the long run, financing investments could become difficult. One of the larger city landlords, Gewobag, which owns 70,000 apartments, says that timely planning for the rent cap means neither building nor maintenance will be affected.
It’s instructive to look at figures on public housing published in Wem gehört die Stadt?, a major study by Christoph Trautvetter and Sophia Bopnczyk on who owns Berlin, that was published in November 2020 as part of a project on housing in Berlin by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The authors show that Gewobag annually spends some 17 per cent of its budget on maintenance, compared with four per cent for the 12 largest for-profit landlords. Gewobag’s annual rent increases average two per cent and those of private companies, five. Gewobag spends 12 per cent on modernization costs annually, private companies 18; Gewobag spent 44 per cent of its budget on purchasing property, while profit-seeking companies spent 60 per cent of theirs; and Gewobag spent 27 per cent on the construction of new apartments and for-profit companies spent… one per cent.
Last November, I mentioned the recent huge raft of purchases by the Swedish real estate giant, Heimstaden. The good news is that Heimstaden has signed an Abwendungsvereinbarung in which it pledges to not convert any of the more than 2,200 apartments in 82 newly purchased buildings into condominiums for 20 years. Heimstaden has also agreed to rent the furnished apartments that currently go for horrendously high rents as regular apartments with normal leases, and to refrain from making modernizations costing tenants more than 30 per cent of their income for 10 years. That’s something, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, aside from the fact that 20 years have a way of speeding by, the conversion agreement only applies to buildings in Milieuschutz neighborhoods. A good 48 buildings that Heimstaden bought in 2020 are not in protected areas and are left… unprotected.
Since tenants in the Mieterbündnis Stopp Heimstaden rejected the real estate company’s offer to meet in early December because they lacked time to prepare, they have received no proposal for another date. Over these months, the Stop Heimstaden Tenant Alliance has staged large and noisy protests on Alexanderplatz, outside of Heimstaden’s office in Friedrichstraße and in front of Berlin’s Abgeordnetenhaus (Parliament). Heimstaden has gotten plenty of bad press – but that has not led it to even acknowledge receipt of the Stopp Heimstaden demands for “a complete ban on conversion into owner-occupied flats; a say in all decisions concerning the buildings through a tenants’ council; a long-term rent freeze beyond the period of the rent cap; and the immediate re-letting of vacant flats.”
The protesters’ demands are quoted in a 15 January 2021 blog post by the Initiative Mieter:innengewerkschaft Berlin (MGB) that notes it was founded the very day in September 2020 that Heimstaden announced it had bought 130 buildings (3,902 apartments). Although the tenant union initiative had intended to start small, it’s been busy connecting and supporting the proliferating network of anti-Heimstaden tenant groups ever since. It organizes online meetings for local groups and three working groups of Heimstaden tenants that handle public relations, coordinate actions, and plan responses. (Get involved here.) The MGB aspires to obtain a legal arrangement for tenants analogous to a collective labor agreement and takes for its model the 100-year-old militant Swedish tenants’ union that now represents over 540,000 households (and millions of individuals), albeit now in a more institutional form: “Each year the unionized tenants sit at the same table with big landlords and push through an agreement that they can afford.” The MGB is not just concerned with rent policy but, following its Swedish example, also wants to address the general housing situation and urban development as a grassroots and democratic organization.
Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen
On 30 November 2020, the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen (DWE) initiative to socialize approximately 243,000 Berlin apartments – belonging to profit-oriented housing companies that own more than 3,000 units each – announced that its plan need not burden the city budget: Compensation can be financed from rents alone. While it would cost between 29 to 36 billion € to buy back the apartments once owned by the city at their current market value, DWE figures that just 8 billion € will pay off loans and also ensure rents at 3.70€/m2. DWE cites article 14 of Germany’s Constitution to the effect that compensation is to be determined by balancing the interests of the general public and the other parties involved. The initiative sees the public interest as the creation of public property and rejects unearned increased value (as opposed to value accrued through modernizations) as the proper basis for valuation. DWE uses the “fair-rent model” in which tenants pay no more than 30 per cent of their net income for heated apartments – half the 7.50€/m2 suggested for social housing rents in 2018. (In the third quarter of 2020, Deutsche Wohnen apartment rentals averaged 6.91€/m2.)
This January, Berlin’s government (the Senat) finally got around to considering the DWE referendum request supported by 77,001 signatures collected in 2019… and rejected it. DWE representative Rouzbeh Taheri says that given the risk of a compromise deal that omits crucial demands, the Senat’s negative decision is no big deal. The drive to collect more than 170,000 signatures (7% of Berlin’s voting population) within four months – so as to force a referendum in September – starts 26 February. To join a local team, visit the DWE website. Non-German speakers can get involved in the DWE “Right to the City” working group. They are addressing the fact that the signatures of non-Germans, many of whom experience discrimination in the housing market, are not considered valid for the campaign. Their first online meeting is scheduled for 7 pm on 22 February. To get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A sign that this is a movement, DWE also plans to start speaking with local activists throughout Germany – either where they’re working or online.
Karstadt on Hermannplatz
As for the future of the Karstadt department store on Hermannplatz, the question remains whether Austrian billionaire René Benko and his real estate conglomerate SIGNA will be allowed to tear it down and erect a semblance of the mammoth structure from 1929 in its place. In late November 2020, the SPD and CDU introduced a motion in Neukölln’s district assembly (the BVV) to transfer local planning authority for the project to the city. Mind you, Neukölln only has jurisdiction over Hermannplatz; the Karstadt building is in Kreuzberg. As for the SPD, it has repeatedly referred to SIGNA’s involvement in planning Hermannplatz although a master plan requires an open-ended process involving the community – not a decision by a private corporation. It is now known that SIGNA had long been working to influence an association of businesses, retailers, and investors around Kurfürstendamm and Tauentzienstraße known as the “City West AG” to support its tall building project there. The notorious Letter of Intent (LoI) that Berlin’s governing coalition (the SPD, Green Party, and the Left) signed with SIGNA in August 2020 was supposedly to rescue Karstadt jobs lost because of the pandemic. However, it also ensured support for SIGNA’s three major development projects around the city. Right after the signing, attention was focussed on the Karstadt on Hermannplatz, but the LoI also states that “the results of the workshop process on the City West development should be taken into consideration.” While Initiative Hermannplatz activists have repeated mantra-like that an LoI is not legally binding, on 14 January 2021, a SIGNA spokesperson stated, “The collaboration with the Senat has so far proven to be very reliable and trustworthy. We continue to have no doubt that the Senat will stand by its word and implement the agreements in the LoI.”
Hmmmm… Just one day before that, Berlin’s Building Director Regula Lüscher had presented a development plan for City West that did not include any new tall buildings… Stay tuned! Meanwhile, you might think twice before using fahrrad.de, which has been advertised on plenty of billboards in Berlin. SIGNA, which is running a massive public relations campaign (including an artistic full-page advertisement in the magazine of the C/O photography gallery) is involved in that, too.
Despite the global health emergency, René Benko’s SIGNA Prime Selection AG is paying 33 per cent more dividends (around 200 million €) to his truly, who has not found it fitting to offer any rent reductions to (his) Karstadt buildings. Instead, Benko has relied on Germany’s federal government to bail out his department store chain with 460 million € “to help save the inner cities.” I can only think that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown explains the lack of massive protest at that news. At the same time, concern is growing in Munich about how Benko is buying up ever more of its old town…. Unfortunately, though, Benko is not the only one whose practice of revaluation and refinancing and taking out new loans is causing a dangerous real estate market bubble.
Closer to home…
Deutsche Wohnen owns most of the buildings in the tip of my Reichenberger Kiez that abuts Kottbusser Tor, where many tenants were already paying too much rent when, in 2011, they were hit with staggering increases. In an inspired move, “Kotti & Co.” built what they called a gecekondu (Turkish for “built overnight” – a house put up in the dark of night that can’t legally be razed). Kreuzberg’s small architect-designed building became the venue where a huge variety of people gathered to discuss the German phenomenon of privately owned subsidized public housing.
West German housing policy was intended to promote private housing and private capital. Even publicly funded buildings were profit oriented. For years, developers have been guaranteed lots of taxpayer money to provide affordable housing: The municipality covered the difference between the cost of building the apartments (12-15€/m2) and their rent (5.35€/m2 maximum). Then, in 2003, a plan pushed by then-Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin, who has since made a name for himself with his racist writings, saw the city paying less and less of its share… leaving tenants to repay costly construction loans from the 1970s. Berlin reneged on its “social obligation” (Sozialbindung) to ensure affordable rents – as if people who had been economically and socially disadvantaged for decades could suddenly afford huge rent hikes. In a public discussion in 2016, sociologist Andrej Holm described how “social housing subsidized private property with anti-social effects at the expense of the general public and [created] no sustainable housing supply.”
According to a Kotti & Co. blog post, “Social Housing in a Post-Social Berlin,” in 2012 half the social housing residents, around 80 per cent of whom have Turkish roots, were already paying 40 to 50 per cent of their income on rent. This burden leads to the massive displacement of long-time residents, who themselves or whose parents had been recruited as Gastarbeiter to rebuild the West German economy in the 1960s. Activists note the flippant suggestion from government representatives and housing company managers that they should just look for another place to live – at the same time the Job Center was pushing welfare recipients to lower their rent costs by moving, if necessary. Eight years ago, residents were told to relocate to East Berlin, where violent racist attacks in the street were frequent. Kotti & Co. activists sketch the history of discrimination, including the 1970s notion that immigrants were to blame for the lack of apartments and how in the mid 1970s, Turkish immigrants were formally banned from moving to Kreuzberg. That’s hard to get my head around. However, instead of badmouthing newcomers, Kotti & Co. demands fair housing for all Berliners.
In early 2021, the Kotti & Co. gecekondu is still there. The rent increase of yesteryear was not enforced. But with Deutsche Wohnen as owner, the future is anything but reassuring: Starting in 2023, rents will rise in building after building. Kotti &Co., which has taught city politicians how little they understood about how German social housing functions, is now engaged in promoting “resocialization plus” which stands for tenants’ increased involvement in management and decision-making. Kotti & Co. contingents will also be collecting signatures for the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen referendum!
Much as I try, I can’t keep up with all the developments in my Kiez. Most changes never make the news. Two women I met while I was examining signs at a building site (“Design your own apartment!”) in the next block said that in the last decade, at least half their neighbors have had to move. A year ago, I somehow missed the private investment fund’s announcement of its intention to sell six buildings at Kottbusser Tor, including the Aquarium and Café Südblock, which in recent years have become very popular venues for sociopolitical events. That’s a terrible shock.
So, this is what’s disturbing me most right now: The banalization of my lively and cultured neighborhood. I’m no longer just concerned about the changing nature of commercial properties – the proliferation of bars and pricier restaurants and retail stores that are replacing long-established services. That said, since the last Turkish supermarket in Reichenberger Straße closed, I now have a bit of a hike to stock up on non-biodeutsch staples like parsley, pita bread and dried lentils.
What’s happening to the cultural landmarks and gathering spots here and along Oranienstraße that I’ve patronized for going on two decades?
Kisch & Co.
Four years ago, Kisch & Co. booksellers agreed to a new three-year lease with a significant rent increase – only to learn near its end that they had yet another owner. With serious sleuthing, Christoph Trautvetter thought he’d identified them: The Tetra Pak heirs, one of whom publishes the English-language literary magazine, Granta, and has been awarded for her philanthropy. She denies any connection, however, and Kisch & Co. can’t prove it. The conditions attached to a new lease extension included a gag order and a pledge to post a video on YouTube attesting to the property owners’ good character: No way! But demonstrations, supplications by Berlin personalities, an open letter from Berlin’s senators for culture and justice, and petitions have achieved nothing. Kisch & Co. will have its day in court on 9 April, a postponement from early February due to the pandemic and “the expected great interest on the part of the general public.” Activists plan to internationalize their protest, particularly in Sweden, where the presumed owners live. Meanwhile, a calendar for 2021 featuring illustrations made during the numerous events to protest the eviction (including the one here by the well-known comic artist Mawil) is being sold to help Kisch & Co. defray legal expenses. You can also join more than 5,000 Berliners who have already signed the petition.
A recent discussion beamed from the sofa cinema in the Regenbogenfabrik, another neighborhood landmark, featured representatives of three socio-cultural “commercial” tenants, including the Meuterei, the collectively run neighborhood bar around the corner, whose building has been sold many times and which could be evicted at any moment. The evening was depressing as hell.
Kisch & Co.’s lawyer pointed out that while the bookstore’s previous owner had been a well-known Berliner who was concerned about his image, the new owners’ anonymity makes it impossible to hold them to account. A housing law specialist who has also defended Kotti & Co., Benjamin Hersch outlined the major failings of Berlin’s commercial rent law. Commercial tenants have no protection once their leases expire. In addition, landlords need not say why commercial tenants have to leave. Usually, owners just want more money and in Berlin, they’re free to charge whatever they want. A tenant can’t argue that being evicted will leave them without any income or deprive the neighborhood of an important cultural institution. Years of efforts to change the law have brought no improvements. Hersch considers that he can only argue that housing law must be applied to the case because Berlin’s commercial rent law is so flawed. He already tried that – without success – when defending the Syndikat collective bar in Neukölln. But this time there will be a different judge. It’s worth a try. Like all the speakers on the dais, a protective mask hid his face, but I was fascinated watching Thorsten Willenbrock of Kisch & Co. move his hand ever so slightly. (My stomach was churning.)
However, after Benjamin Hersch’s terrifying analysis, the evening ended with Stefan Klein of the GloReiche Nachbarschaft initiative that successfully protested the eviction of the “Filou” bakery and the opening of a Google Campus in my neighborhood (see my first article). For a number of years, he’s been running KiGE, a volunteer center that has counseled over 100 commercial tenants in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that are threatened with eviction: cultural institutions, artists and artisans – even sports and health clubs. He began by pointing out that a legal fight is very expensive. But then he told about the meetings held with a huge range of specialists, politicians, administrators, local associations, initiatives, and neighbors to develop a new commercial rent law. The draft law limits rent hikes to no more than ten per cent above comparable rents in the neighborhood and stipulates that tenants can request to have limited leases extended for ten years. A landlord’s sole interest in earning more money would not be considered a legitimate reason for giving notice to a commercial tenant. The new federal law would only apply to premises that are 250 m2 and smaller because huge discounters need no protection: They dictate their terms to landlords. On being presented to the Bundestag in October 2020, the parliamentary advisors recommended the bill undergo further discussion. Stefan Klein says that if the conservatives lose their majority in September, the bill on commercial rents could be put to a vote. Now is the time to pressure parliamentary candidates: This is an election year!
Another tenant of Oranienstraße 25, the industrial complex from 1910 that’s designated a cultural heritage monument and where Kisch & Co. is located, is the highly political “neues Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK)”. The nGbK’s 950 members make it one of Germany’s largest artist societies. The nGbK’s involvement with its neighborhood includes annual scholarships for artists from Istanbul. Another important tenant at that address is the delightful “Museum der Dinge” with its archive on the history of mass production – “everyday things.” Among the most memorable events at the museum was a reading by Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander, whose Kreuzberg neighbors hid her during the war. Both of these cultural institutions have to move. By 2023, the magnificent buildings at Oranienstraße 25 will be emptied of their tenants. The German language has a word for that: entmieten.
The nGbK website explains that it and the Museum der Dinge have been offered space in a new pavilion being constructed on Karl Marx Allee near Alexanderplatz. Great! Their existence is assured. But what about the other tenants of Oranienstraße 25, including a yoga studio and architectural offices? And what about their neighbors? What about us?? We’re left behind in an Oranienstraße that’s being bled of its culture. A few years ago, it suffered the indignity of a luxury hotel opening on the corner of Oranienplatz, which has not just been the site of innumerable demos, rallies, and concerts, but also the camp for refugees who, in 2010, marched to Berlin from all over Germany to protest assigned residency. Will the luxury hotel manager call the police on Kurdish festivals and queer parades? Will the people who have made Kreuzberg what it is (and what numerous commercial real estate websites promote as a selling point) still be allowed to use “O’Platz”? Are we destined to go the way of sanitized Prenzlauerberg? The “endlessly inventive cultural life” touted on the Orania.Berlin website cannot survive without affordable rents. Recent rent increases at Oranienstraße 25 were as high as 280 per cent. A few years ago, when Kisch & Co. was first threatened with eviction, a boutique for designer frames was said to be ready to take over the premises. I shudder to think what might take its place now.
There is some good news…
On 9 December 2020, the Bundesgerichtshof (the Federal Supreme Court) ruled that building managements and landlords have to show tenants not just their bills but also the receipts used to calculate annual service charges. Tenants can finally see if the owner benefited from discounts or reductions and know if the sums charged were actually paid or if they’re inflated – or fake. Tenants can review maintenance and insurance contracts, invoices, bills of delivery, meter readings, and so forth. When my Berliner Mieterverein (Berlin tenant’s association) counselor reviewed my last Betriebskostenabrechnung, she thought the gardening costs were unusually high… Six months later, although I’m still waiting for the building management to produce all the bills, at least I know I’m entitled to them.
A new operating costs ordnance (Betriebskostenverordnung) squarely places the burden of a new carbon-pricing scheme on tenants, who have to pay an annual average of 52 € more for gas-heated apartments (2/3 of all Berlin apartments) and 88 € more for oil-heated digs. It would be great if the tenants’ financial sacrifice helped to protect the climate. But the new regulation does nothing to encourage owners to invest in energy-saving modernizations, while tenants are already pushed to save money by the way that heating is billed. Heating any less could stimulate the growth of mold. Besides, this is really not a winter to pinch on fuel. Rainer Wild, managing director of the Berliner Mieterverein, calls the new rule “climate policy mischief for which tenants have to pay dearly” and calls on the government to instead charge landlords “because only they can sustainably reduce energy consumption by making changes to the building and heating system.”
More bad news…
Despite fierce opposition, SPD man Volker Härtig has been pushed through as the head of the Wohnraumversorgung (WVB), a public body that develops and enforces housing policy for Berlin’s six housing corporations. Härtig didn’t just oppose the rent cap, he’s also against social housing in principle. That’s a real slap in the face of housing activists!
Very good news
Okay, it’s not very new but it is very good and only a block away: “Lause 10” is remaining!
(More on that next time.)
What to do?
Organize! I’ve already mentioned the drive to collect signatures for Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen that starts this month. Aside from voicing demands regarding all tenant and commercial property issues, the non-German residents who make up around a quarter of Berlin’s population must push to be allowed to vote in local elections and referendums. A movement targeting that could change the direction of Berlin’s urban planning.
Another crucial demand is that information on property owners must be publicly available. Newly arrived internationals often welcome the German insistence on privacy – especially with regard to Big Tech and data protection. As I’ve explained, however, the anonymity granted to property owners can have devastating consequences. After all, one issue in the sorry tale of Syndikat, the “left-wing alternative” collective bar in Schiller Kiez that I wrote about in November, was the huge difficulty in finding out who had bought the building. Since Syndikat’s eviction in August 2020 (with 750 police and 159 undercover agents!), Christian, who ran the bar for 14 years, has been searching for new premises in the neighborhood. He’s also begun to work with the MGB and DWE. According to Christoph Trautvetter, in the long run, anonymous investors who use tax loopholes to avoid taxes may be an even bigger problem for Berlin than for-profit housing companies.
In late November 2020, the Left Party introduced motions to protect tenants from owners who claim to need their apartment for themselves. The plan is to restrict “Eigenbedarf” to owners and their immediate families who have to use the recuperated apartment as their main residence. The Left also proposed that it be illegal to give notice to people over 70 because of the great hardship it represents for that population group – not just due to the lack of available apartments but also because of their meager pensions and the psychological suffering caused by being wrenched from their familiar social surroundings. This needs to be pursued.
Finally, for now (I can only address a few of the many struggles in one article!): In western Kreuzberg SO61, the “Urbane Mitte Süd” at the rim of Park Gleisdreieck near Potsdamerplatz has morphed into a plan featuring seven buildings, two as high as 90 m. on either side of the elevated track (U1). According to the Gleisdreieck Working Group, the buildings will cast much of the park in shadow, create high winds, more traffic and business, and result in less nature and NO apartments, while also sealing the ground (Versiegelung) – “disfiguring the historical setting that characterizes the place.” (The blog at www.gleisdreieck-blog.de provides details in German about how to get involved in the participative process that runs until 18 February.)
Socialization: A Democratic, Affordable, and Lawful Solution to Berlin’s Housing Crisis, by urban sociologist Joanna Kusiak, a member of DWE’s socialization working group. This very accessible four-page policy paper from January 2021 should be essential reading for everyone collecting signatures. In it, she explains why the real issue is socialization and not “expropriation” as proposed by Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen in its extraordinarily effective media launch. (Overlook the numerous typos and the author’s stated interest in making Berlin “sexy, smart, and sustainable” because “smart cities” – urban areas that use the Internet of Things to collect data – are a separate issue that demands serious attention.)
The Compass: My Perfect City: Housing in Vienna is part of a BBC World Service series examining the best practices of a variety of cities. Viennese authorities consider housing a basic human right and have a long history of providing subsidized social housing for 60 per cent of the city’s residents.
Roll up your sleeves. Our work is cut out for us.
Nancy du Plessis applies her degree in urban design studies to activism – in New York, Paris and Berlin.
© Nancy du Plessis 2021