343,000 Berliners want to expropriate residential groups

A referendum on the expropriation of large housing companies is expected to take place in Berlin in September. The project would cost billions.

Many signatures collected: Demonstration of the initiative

UAt 4 p.m., the initiators of a referendum on the expropriation of a large housing company want to hand over their signature collection to the Berlin Senate Administration. They announced earlier this Friday how optimistic they are. The initiative “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” has therefore collected more than 343,000 signatures. The organizers expect that they have clearly exceeded the required number of valid votes. A referendum will therefore probably take place on September 26th.

For Jenny Stupka, spokeswoman for the initiative, the number of signatures in the second collection phase shows that many Berliners want affordable housing in common ownership. “Berliners cannot be fobbed off with symbolic politics,” she said. According to their own statements, they have exceeded the record of previous referendums in Berlin.

However, the signatures still have to be checked. The initiative requires 175,000 valid signatures, which corresponds to seven percent of Berlin’s eligible voters. The result of the examination should be announced within 15 days. According to the regional election office, it can be assumed that this will happen at the beginning of July.

After the failure of the rent cap law before the Federal Constitutional Court in April, Berlin is facing a discussion about the next controversial rent policy project. The FDP and CDU have spoken out against the expropriation of the housing groups. The SPD and its top candidate Franziska Giffey also think it’s the wrong way to go. The Left Party, on the other hand, supported the initiative and collected signatures.

However, the referendum is not binding on the Berlin state government. Nevertheless, initiative spokesman Rouzbeh Taheri expects the decision to be implemented later. “The pressure will be so great that the future Senate will not be able to avoid drawing up a socialization law,” he told the rbb. The spokesman for the initiative recalled the water referendum ten years ago. “Even if it was non-binding at the time, it ultimately led to the water company being remunicipalised.” That will be the case again.

Taheri rejected criticism that the implementation of the plans would cost the state budget billions that would then be missing elsewhere. The citizens’ initiative wants to compensate the real estate companies with bonds that are to be repaid within 40 years.

Fusion hits Berlin housing market

The main opponent of the proponents of expropriation has always been the listed Deutsche Wohnen, which has more than 150,000 residential units, three quarters of which are in Berlin. In May Vonovia announced that it wanted to merge with its smaller competitor, Deutsche Wohnen. Vonovia is the largest German listed housing group with almost 500,000 residential units, but has fewer apartments in the capital. In the course of the merger, the companies announced that they would sell 20,000 apartments in Berlin to the state government. In addition to Deutsche Wohnen, the initiative is increasingly directed against Vonovia in public.

In the first collection phase, the initiative received 197,000 signatures, which they submitted in May. After examination in the district election offices, 29.9 percent of them were invalid. The most common reason was that the undersigned were not German citizens. Even now, the expropriation initiative is expecting tens of thousands of signatures from Berliners without a German passport, which the state election control will declare invalid. Jane Plett of the initiative criticizes this as a “scandal” because Berliners without a German passport are an important part of the community.

The “Deutsche Wohnen und Co. expropriate” initiative campaigns for the expropriation of housing groups with more than 3000 apartments in Berlin. Cooperatives should be exempt from this. According to the initiative, more than 240,000 apartments were to be transferred to an institution under public law. The Berliners could then vote on this in parallel to the House of Representatives and Bundestag elections in September.