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Referendum on expropriating corporate landholdings in Berlin

Referendum on expropriating corporate landholdings in Berlin

'Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co.' collected 343,000 signatures supporting the fight against skyrocketing rents

On 25 June 2021, the group Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen (Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co.) has collected 343,000 signatures in their bid to force a referendum on the expropriation of large landowners’ property in the city of Berlin. The group needed a minimum of 175,000 valid signatures in order to be considered by city authorities. If accepted, the referendum will become part of the State of Berlin’s September election ballot.

The organisation wants to force the landlords with portfolios exceeding 3,000 apartments to hand them back to the city and quell skyrocketing rents in the capital. The authorities then would have to compensate the owners of the 243,000 apartments with an estimated sum of between 28.8 and 36 billion euros.

What is the problem with owning that many apartments?

The organisation pushing for the referendum is targeting the big real-estate companies like Deutsche Wohnen and they do not have a problem with being very clear about it, evident by their name.

‘Deutsche Wohnen and Co.’ (not to be confused with ‘Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co.’) is a large real estate company, that owns more than 150,000 flats and retail spaces in Germany, 71% of which are in Berlin.

According to the group pushing for the referendum, the company is infamous for providing miserable living conditions for their tenants, such as dysfunctional heating, in order to force them to eventually leave their flats, so that they can renovate and upsell them, pursuing a policy of ever-rising rents.

At the same time, the ‘Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co.’ movement stands firmly behind the idea that shelter is a basic human right and state that “only a life without existential fear can be humane”.

No foreigners can sign the petition

The initiative allowed four months for its petition and, by the end of May, had 197,000 signatures. Election officials disqualified 29.9 % of those, most often because the signatories did not have German citizenship.

Foreigners cannot vote on the matter, nor may they vote in federal elections to see who replaces Angela Merkel. However, EU citizens residing in Berlin get to cast a vote for the make-up of their district council on 26 September.

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