How Berlin can end the insanity of the rental market
Real estate companies in Berlin are making huge profits from our rising rents. We won’t take this any longer: We want to socialize over 240,000 apartments from Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, Akelius & Co by means of a referendum. Article 15 of the Constitution allows us to do this.
With socialization, we want to rescue 11% of Berlin’s apartments from speculation and to enable affordable rents in the long term. No more fat dividends for shareholders, dividends that have to be paid out of our rents. No more evictions for people who can no longer afford their homes.
We can only end the housing crisis if we administer housing on a not-for-profit basis. Support our petition for a referendum and help us to rescue Berlin. Because our city is for everyone!
1. OUR DEMANDS
We demand that the Berlin Senate develop and pass a law in which socialization will be arranged as follows:
1. In line with Article 15 of the Constitution, private real estate firms that own over 3,000 apartments shall be expropriated and their housing stock transferred to public ownership.
2. The affected companies shall be compensated well below market value.
3. For the administration of the housing stock, a public-law institution (Anstalt öffentlichen Rechts, AöR) shall be created. It will be written into the charter of this institution that its holdings may not be privatized.
4. Within the AöR, the holdings that have been transferred to public ownership shall be administered through the majoritarian democratic participation of the community and renters.
2. ABOUT US
Who we are and what we want
Our initiative ‘Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen’ is run by engaged individuals as well as people from tenants’ initiatives, urban planning organizations, and political parties. We come from a variety of backgrounds. We live in leafy suburbs and in the heart of Kreuzberg, in tower blocks and 19th-century tenements, have just moved here or have always lived here. Some of us have been fighting for a liveable, affordable city for all for a long time, while some of us are just starting.
What unites us is that we’ve had enough of rising rents and Berlin being sold off on the global financial markets. The desire for real change in the housing market has brought us together. We want to do something about skyrocketing rents to make it possible again for people on average and low incomes to find somewhere to live.
Corporations like Deutsche Wohnen answer to their shareholders. That’s why our petition for a referendum will allow something that these companies do not: permanently low rents. We want to achieve this by socializing 240,000 homes in Berlin and transferring them into public ownership.
We are a grass-roots democratic initiative, which means we reach our decisions together at a plenary session that takes place every second Tuesday. There are also seven working groups, as well as many Kiez (neighborhood) teams, that would welcome your active support. If you want to get involved, just write us an email! You can find our details under Participate/Get Involved.
3. WHERE CAN I SIGN?
The locations where you can sign our petition are marked on our collection map. Some of these locations also distribute signature sheets and other information or can accept completed signature sheets. All details are available in the locations‘ descriptions.
You can also find a selection of locations that will accept completed signature sheets in this list.
If you want to register an event, take part in an existing event, or make contact with other signature collectors, then download the „Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen“ app from the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, or the Aurora Store.
Want to collect signatures too? Just send an email to the Kiez team of your choice.
DOWNLOAD SIGNATURE SHEETS
When you print out the signature sheets, please make absolutely sure not to change their size, shape,or color. Please print the signature sheets in A4 landscape format and in black and white.
The text of the resolution should always be available for signatories to read. Preferably print the text of the resolution with the signature sheets. You can find it here as a download.
Completed signature sheets can either be sent by post to this address:
Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen
c/o Stadtteilbüro Friedrichshain
Warschauer Str. 23 | 10243 Berlin
or given to participating locations, which you can find on our map. Check the description of the location on the map to be sure they accept completed signature sheets.
Questions? Send an email to your Kiez team, or call us at 0151 29106276.
4. PARTICIPATE & GET INVOLVED
Berlin needs its housing back. We refuse to accept that Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, and Co. can profit from our rising rents. That’s why we’re taking the next step in socializing more than 240,000 apartments belonging to large, profit-oriented real estate companies.
A successful petition means we have to collect 175,000 valid signatures between February 26th and June 25th. We can only achieve this with your help!
Regardless of whether you’ve been an activist for years or urban policy is new to you, there are many ways for you to take part in our initiative.
Take part in English
Get involved with the Right to the City For All working group. The group seeks to amplify the voices of people who are not eligible to vote in Germany.
Come to our introductory meetings
Once a month we organize a digital introductory meeting, where we introduce our initiative and explain where and how you can contribute, whether as signature collector, in your Kiez team, or in a working group. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for people to take part in a signature collection event? Our Collection App will help you to network with other potential collectors.
Stay up to date!
Here are the dates for our current (online) events, and links to our social media channels:
For neighborhood solidarity: Get active in your Kiez
To collect the required signatures, we have set up Kiez (neighbourhood) teams all over the city. There, neighbors can get to know each other, plan events together, prepare signature collections, and ask local shops, cafés, and clubs to support us. Over a thousand people are now active in our Kiez teams and we’re still growing!
You can find the contact details for your local Kiez team here:
Display kiezteam adresses
No Kiez team near you? We’ll set one up with you. Get in touch at email@example.com
At university and want to support our petition for a referendum there? Then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Live in another city but want to support us anyway? Then get in touch at email@example.com
Get involved in a working group!
In addition to the Kiez teams, there are currently seven working groups that would welcome your active support:
Vergesellschaftungs-AG (Socialization WG): deals with the petition for referendum and the socialization law
Aktions-AG (Action WG): organizes events and creates posters and flyers
Öffentlichkeits-AG (PR WG): takes care of PR and social media
Sammel-AG (Collection WG): organizes signature collection and the Kiez teams
Starthilfe-AG (Getting started WG): helps tenants to organize and network
Kultur-AG (Culture WG): in charge of events and cultural activities
AG Right To The City For All: working group in English
5. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who’s behind the petition?
The initiative “Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen” (“Socialize Deutsche Wohnen & Co”) is a grass-roots democratic organization. It is underpinned by many engaged individuals, people from renters’ initiatives, municipal political groups, and parties. Learn more about us and how you can participate in the section “Participation/get involved”.
How can I participate?
At the moment we hold an assembly every second Tuesday. On top of this, there are seven working groups for particular tasks and topics, which would be happy to have your active support: If you’ve always wanted to design a sticker, author a flyer, or put on a concert with your favorite band, you’ll find all the relevant info in the section “Participation/get involved”.
If you’d like to get involved in English or another language, you can get in contact with the working group “Right 2 the City” (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In order to collect the necessary signatures for the petition, we’ve organized local Kiez teams throughout the city. The Kiezteams establish collection groups on site, are available to talk to all those interested and ask cafés, shops, and associations if they’d like to support us. You’d like to get involved with a Kiezteam? Find their contact info in the section “Participation/get involved”.
Where can I sign the petition?
If you’d like to sign on the spot, download our signature sheet, sign it, and throw it in the nearest mailbox.
But you can also sign at one of the many participating locations – see above for a map of all the shops, cafés, bars, and associations with signature lists available on-site. You can also sign at the nearest Bürgeramt.
I’m not eligible to vote in Berlin. Can I sign anyway?
Yes. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Berliners are not eligible to vote – for example because they don’t have German citizenship. In our eyes, it is scandalous that people who’ve been living in this city for years are not given a say at the polls. For this reason, we also welcome the signatures of those ineligible to vote – to make this scandal visible. If this issue stirs you up, you’re encouraged to get in contact with the “Right 2 the City” working group.
I already signed two years ago. Should I sign again anyway?
Absolutely. In early 2019, we collected signatures for approval of our petition – around 77,000 in just under two months! That was only the first stage. Afterwards, the Berlin Senate did a legal review of our petition. For the second phase, we now have to collect around 180,000 valid signatures in four months. The signatures from the first phase don’t count for the second.
What happens after signatures are collected for the petition?
If we are successful in collecting the necessary 180,000 signatures in four months, there will be a referendum in September: Berliners who are eligible to vote can then decide on the expropriation of Deutsche Wohnen & Co (among others) parallel to voting for the Berlin House of Representatives and the Bundestag.
The referendum will pass if the majority of voters – representing at least 25% of those eligible – vote in favor.
I’d like to collect signatures. Where can I get a signature list?
Signature lists can be picked up at various locations in the city. See the section “Where can I sign?” for an overview. Or you can download and print out a signature list yourself.
How do I find fellow campaigners to collect signatures with?
For this there are several possibilities. You could for example link up with the Kiez team in your area. The Kiez teams organize signature collection on site – see above for an overview of all the relevant contacts.
Or you can arrange to meet people directly and join forces via our collection app. You can download it for Android from the Google Play Store and for iPhones from the Apple App Store. For Google-free Android devices the app is available in the Aurora Store.
How will the socialized housing be paid for?
Article 15 of the Constitution provides that the expropriated companies must be compensated. This, however, can occur significantly under the market value – seeing that the rapid increase in this value cannot be attributed to any productive effort on the part of the owners. We suggest a “Fair Rent Model”, according to which the total compensation would lie at eight billion Euros.
In this case, as with any normal house purchase, the State of Berlin mustn’t lay down the entire sum of money at once. Rather, to finance the compensation, a loan will be taken out. This loan will be carried by the public-law institution (AöR), not the Berlin State budget. The loan will be refinanced over a period of 43.5 years out of the current rental income. In this period of time, the AöR will remain capable of action: The rents will cover the necessary costs and new projects can be undertaken – for example renovations and new construction. In other words, the Berlin State budget mustn’t be burdened by the socialization of housing.
The socialization will actually increase public wealth, even before the loan is paid off.
Is the socialization of housing legally possible?
Yes, we invoke Article 15 of the Constitution, which ensures that land can be transferred to public ownership for the purposes of socialization. In the meantime, several expert opinions have verified that the socialization we’re demanding is legally admissible – among others the reports of the research services of the Berlin House of Representatives and the Bundestag.
Which apartments would be socialized?
The holdings of any profit-seeking real estate company with more than 3,000 apartments in Berlin. Among these, for example, are the companies Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, Akelius, Covivio, Heimstaden, Pears Global, TAG Immobilien, Grand City Properties, and several more. All apartments would be expropriated from these companies – not only those above the 3,000-minimum. In total, we’re talking about transferring at least 240,000 apartments in Berlin into public property.
Why only companies with more than 3,000 apartments and not all bad landlords?
Our petition takes aim at large companies investing in Berlin real estate, because they achieve exceptionally high returns on the scarcity of apartments in a renter-dominant city. The more apartments they own, the more market power they wield, for instance through lobbying or lawsuits against the rental index (Mietspiegel) and – until it was successfully dismantled – the rental cap (Mietendeckel). Companies like Deutsche Wohnen and Vonovia, which manage capital worldwide, pursue a particularly aggressive strategy of rental increase – only in this way can they provide their shareholders with the promised dividends. Lower-level landlords, regardless how bad some may be, do not have a comparable influence on the rental market.
My housing cooperative has more than 3,000 apartments. Would it also be expropriated?
Absolutely not. For us, it is only a question of profit-seeking companies. This is stated expressly in the text of the resolution to be voted on. We are glad that such cooperatives exist. Like all forms of collectively owned housing, they should be preserved.
Must renters move out after the expropriation?
No. The renters simply get a new landlord: The apartments will be transferred to a public-law institution (AöR). And we have calculated that the rent could be lowered, effective immediately.
Would the employees of Deutsche Wohnen & Co lose their jobs?
No. The employees would be re-hired by the AöR, which we want to commit to better working conditions than before: the obligation to pay in line with a collective wage agreement (Tarifbindung) and a ban on methods of undercutting such an agreement. For basic upkeep, including custodial duties and minor repairs, permanent personnel will be hired. Temporary contracts without substantive grounds would be forbidden. That means the situation for the employees would improve: better pay, more job security, and the creation of more positions. Because Deutsche Wohnen & Co also boost their profits by cutting back on personnel wherever possible.
What is a public-law institution (AöR)? Why should the socialized apartments be administered through one?
An AöR is a company regulated by public law and tasked with a public function. Examples of such institutions include the TV broadcasters ARD and ZDF, Berlin Public Transit Authority (BVG) and the Berlin Sanitation Services (BSR).
The legal form of the AöR allows for more democratic participation in decision-making. This distinguishes it, for example, from the state-owned housing companies. We aspire to create a general renter’s council.
Can’t major investors elude expropriation by founding subsidiaries and in this way fly beneath the 3,000 apartment minimum?
No, there are no loop-holes. In determining the threshold, the holdings of all legally independent subsidiaries as well as subordinate companies are treated as the holdings of the primary company. All of them count as one business.
What is the “Fair Rent Model”?
Article 15 of the Constitution does not provide a procedure for determining the amount of compensation, but rather calls for a balancing of interests. We suggest calculating this amount according to the rental income that would be obtained from the socialized apartments. Our model considers the public interest in affordable living space as a starting point and calculates the amount of rent that could be paid by someone at the poverty line – more specifically 3,70 Euro per square meter. On this basis, the amount of compensation would be roughly eight billion Euros. For more information, click here.
Isn’t new construction more important than expropriation? Wouldn’t the market simply adjust rental prices if there were enough apartments?
Most apartments built privately in Berlin over the last ten years are unaffordable to the average wage-earner – above all, condominiums and apartments in the upper price-range have been built.
On their own, companies like Deutsche Wohnen & Co build almost no new apartments. They rather tend to buy up apartments in order to then raise the rent. For this reason, we need not-for-profit developers. One such developer could be found in the public-law institution (AöR) which would come into existence to administer the socialized housing stock.
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Little donations against real estate giants
There are no big businesses or powerful lobbyists behind us. We have neither slush funds nor offshore accounts. Our money comes from successfully completed crowdfunding campaigns in fall 2020, summer 2021 and from donations .
We work on a volunteer basis and rely mainly on donations to finance our campaign. That’s why we’re asking for your support: every small donation counts!
Here are a few examples of what happens with your donations:
– For 20 Euros we can print 1,000 flyers.
– For 50 Euros we can build five mobile bicycle tables, which our Kiez teams use to collect signatures.
– For 100 Euros we can place an ad on social media that reaches tens of thousands of users.
– For 500 Euros we can equip our Kiez teams Berlin-wide with clipboards for collecting signatures.
– For 1,000 Euros we can buy 300 vests, so that our signature-collectors can be easily seen.
– For 3,000 Euros we can pay someone to work for five months (and hold it all together).
– For 5,000 Euros and above we can pay for billboard advertisements across Berlin.