A Referendum To Expropriate Apartments From Big Landlords In Berlin
Above Photo: From Economist.com
Locals complain of high rents, and block plans to build more homes
Sarah-lena knust, a mild-mannered young pr consultant, is an unlikely radical. But finding a place to live in Germany’s booming capital tests the hardiest soul. Since moving to Berlin last year Ms Knust has twice struggled to find affordable housing. The last flat-viewing she attended attracted 30 rivals. The place she eventually found will suck up nearly half her income. “I knew it would be hard,” she sighs. “But I didn’t think it would be like this.”
Such tales are familiar in a city where the days of paying next to nothing for cavernous apartments are long gone. That is why tens of thousands of Berliners, including Ms Knust, have lent their names to a radical proposal: to expropriate private housing. The campaign, launched at a “rent insanity” protest in Berlin on April 6th, is gathering signatures to force a citywide vote on whether to oblige companies that own over 3,000 properties to sell them to the city. It relies on a novel interpretation of a constitutional provision that allows private assets to be “transferred to public ownership”. Views vary on whether that will pass muster in the courts, but over half of Berliners back the plan, in a city where 85% rent. Firms owning almost 250,000 properties, around 15% of Berlin’s housing stock, would be affected. Deutsche Wohnen (dw), the biggest, has become the symbolic target of the measure.