Residents of Berlin, Germany have backed one of Europe’s most radical responses to the problem of housing and urban regeneration by voting to have properties seized from mega landlords.
In a referendum timed to coincide with Germany’s general election on Sunday, locals supported expropriation by 56% to 39%.
“It’s nearly impossible to describe this feeling,” Kalle Kunkel, an activist for Berlin’s Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen campaign. “For many of us, it feels like the end of a four-year marathon. Or at the very least, we’ve reached a major high point.” Kunkel told the media.
The campaign is named after Deutsche Wohnen, a private landlord that held more than 110,000 apartments in Berlin.
Kunkel sees the referendum victory as the culmination of years of campaigning against skyrocketing housing and rental prices.
The vote could see private landlords that hold more than 3,000 units having them expropriated and made available an estimated 240,000 apartments on the city’s affordable housing stock.
A majority of Berliners in all but two (of 12) districts supported the initiative and that’s a decision that political leaders simply can’t ignore.”
Socialising a quarter-million apartments may seem extreme, but this reflects a growing sense of desperation among renters in Berlin.
Once known as one of Europe’s most affordable capital cities, rents in Berlin more than doubled in the last decade.
The referendum is a vocal rejection of housing speculation and a huge success where previous, tamer attempts like federal rent cap schemes have failed.
However, implementing the outcome of the referendum is not as straightforward as the simple yes/no vote. Like the result of most referendum it only ensures debate and not necessarily implementation.