Dry living

For many Berliners at the turn of the 20th century, even the cheapest housing was tough to afford. Many poor people lived either in makeshift cellar apartments or small chambers in the attic – or they shared a bed with other residents as “sleepers”. Another option was the ironically named "dry living", which was harmful to tenants' health. Called "dry dwellers", these lodgers lived in new tenement buildings that officially, were not ready for occupancy before their walls had dried out – which as a rule took three to six months. This was due to the widespread use of cheap lime mortar in the working-class districts, a material that loses large quantities of water as it hardens. Dry dwellers could accelerate the process by heating their homes and simply by breathing. They paid considerably less rent, but had to move regularly and were permanently exposed to moisture, raising the risk of respiratory diseases and colds.