A Referendum To Expropriate Apartments From Big Landlords In Berlin

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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.



    1990- The Squatters’ Council is formed, and represents more than 120 squatted buildings. The East German police avoid areas dominated by anarchists and autonomists, squatters are negotiating with the communist East Berlin officials to get contracts for their buildings, which had been occupied for free under the DDR, , the sun is shining a lot, some Nazis make a few problems now and then, and fascists even squat their own building in the Weitlingstrasse. Germany becomes a reunited ‘Vaterland’ once again. Control over the police forces is handed over to West Berlin. The first riot police attacks by West Berlin cops in East Berlin take place. Intent on gentrification-for-profit, Police evict 3 squats in the Pfarrstrasse and the Cotheniusstrasse. Following protest actions in the Friedrichshain neighborhood, water cannons begin to spray 12 squatted houses in the Mainzerstrasse. A riot starts and last into the night, forcing the police to retreat. More than 4,000 riot police and special commandos from all over Germany brutally evict the barricaded Mainzerstrasse. The Greens protest the evictions by leaving their coalition government with the social democratic SPD party. The city is then governed by a coalition of the SPD and the right-wing CDU. There are more evictions: Kadinerstrasse and Lubbenerstrasse in West Berlin.Free housing, free education, free medical care vanish under the onslaught of “austerity”.

  • irategrandmother

    Thanks for sharing this bit of history. I suspect that many places in the U.S. are not much different than Berlin. I know that there is also a housing problem in Munich. Rent is becoming expensive in capitalist countries. And then there’s the Yellow Vests . . .