Expat arrivals and oldschool Berliners are immediately united on one issue: the Berlin housing crisis. Whether you’ve lived in Berlin your whole life and are suddenly struggling to find the next flat or you’ve been drawn by the city’s promises of culture and work, the increasing lack of flats, rise of rental prices and bureaucratic hurdles to finding a long term flat create a pain point that everyone in the city can relate to. From the Mietspiegel to memes, the city is united in trying (more or less constructively) to deal with the renting crisis.
A collective problem requires a collective solution. 85% of Berlin’s population rents, and the factors that have led to Berlin’s housing crisis are manifold: foreign investment, lack of rent control, housing shortages, distrust between landlords and tenants, legal barriers, slow bureaucratic processes, an oldschool reliance on traditional markers of financial stability (i.e. a stable job vs the very common—and often lucrative—freelancing positions many people choose to take up today). That means the issue sometimes feels overwhelming. It also means that it’s easy to be cynical about measures that have been made, like the Mietendeckel, which is treated with skepticism and concern in many circles both in terms of its sustainability and its enforceability.
In fact, most of us are unable to summon the resources, legislative power and capacity to solve Berlin’s housing crisis in one fell swoop. It’s an enormous problem best tackled in smaller pieces. There are problems—such as the bureaucratic hurdles to renting, or a breakdown of trust between landlords and tenants—where existing housing policies will have only a minimal effect. It’s at that point that other solutions need to step forward.
With this in mind, we launched Domi.
Smart data for a smart city
Domi’s product is simple: a digital passport that allows you to access the rental market anywhere. And we’re built on sophisticated and cutting-edge technology. Self-sovereign identity (SSI) follows the belief that a user’s data should be fully owned and controlled by the user themselves, and offers a verifiable and transparent way to exchange credentials between users, companies and governments.
SSI is a new form of decentralised tech that puts the power of data back in users’ hands. In the same way that you can use your driver’s license or passport as physical proof of your identity, SSI creates verifiable digital credentials that could be used for anything from signing online contracts to logging into online services to claiming government benefits.
Domi is built using SSI to create a digital passport that property managers can trust and tenants can control. For tenants, the Domi wallet avoids the data privacy concerns and paperwork hassle of having to hand over piles of significant and private documents. For landlords and property managers, Domi helps manage your data privacy concerns, keeps you GDPR secure, and offers a paperless and fully digitised way to manage contracts and tenant relationships for the entire length of that relationship.
Domi addresses two of the major pain points in the Berlin housing market:
- Digitalisation: The rental market in Germany is screaming for digitalisation. Using Domi either as a tenant or as a property manager means that you’ll have the entire history of your relationship—from application to Abmeldung and everything in between, along with all the documents you’ve exchanged—in a secure, instantly accessible place. With one click in your browser or a tap on your phone, you pull up all the documents you need.
- Trust: We’ve found that relationships generally improve as soon as people are given the means to trust one another. Domi can’t repair all the years of history, real issues and complicated emotions that lie between landlords and tenants, but we can give you a platform to deal with one another fairly and equitably. By giving both tenants and landlords a means for clear, transparent communications, we promote mutual respect and responsibility on both sides. With Domi, you’re building a record of trust on both sides that you can carry throughout a lifetime of renting.
But along with this, Domi is all about clarity, offering transparent and reliable pictures of its users on both sides of the rental market. If you’re a freelancer, you have the chance to show measurable income in the same verified way employees’ payslips work. If you don’t have the big bucks to back you up in your housing applications but do have a track record as a responsible and reliable tenant, your Domi will reflect that, too.
SSI is the backbone of Europe’s new generation of digital identity technology, which will be rolled out in the next five years. Domi offers you—and Berlin, and Germany—a chance to get onboard early.
The road to launch
2020’s been a big year for Domi, and 2021 is already promising to be bigger and better still.
We’ve been backed by exciting projects, securing funding and support under two EU-grants: eSSIF-LAB and DAPSI, which have contributed hugely to our product and company development. A very significant step has been conducting industry, user and market research as we refine our product development, in preparation for a 2021 Q3 launch in Germany. We’ve also begun exploring applications of Domi in adjacent sectors, from utilities to insurance to banking, making it much more likely that your Domi will be an all-important and everyday part of future city life.
But it’s not all research. Alongside our product scope and development, the Domi team has been securing pilot opportunities with property management companies based in key cities across Europe, as well as integration opportunities with project management software companies. Most of our energy and focus is trained at bringing Domi to you, our users — because we know you need it. As early as September 2021, you could be using the Domi app to manage applications for properties you manage, or using it to apply for your own new accommodation.
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