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! 

175.000 Unterschriften bis zum Volksentscheid

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. THE UPCOMING REFERENDUM AND CAMPAIGN

From February to June 2021, we collected over 350,000 signatures for our petition for a referendum. We reached the necessary 175,000 valid signatures in four months.

The referendum will therefore take place on September 26, 2021. The people of Berlin can vote on the expropriation of Deutsche Wohnen & Co. in parallel with the election of the Berlin House of Representatives and the Bundestag.

The referendum is accepted if the majority of those voting, and at least 25 percent of those entitled to vote, agree.

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.

The referendum is taking place on September 26, 2021. To be successful, we have to get at least 25 percent of the eligible population to vote and ensure that the majority of these voters support the socialization of Deutsche Wohnen and Co. 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 through door-knocking or telephone campaigns, conversations on the street, flyering and postering, in your Kiez team, or in a working group. Register at mitmachen@dwenteignen.de

Looking for people to take part in a door-knocking, street outreach, or postering event? Our DW + Co. Enteignen app will help you to network with other collaborators.

Stay up to date!

Here are the dates for our current (online) events, and links to our social media channels:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

For neighborhood solidarity: Get active in your Kiez

To convince the voters, we have set up Kiez (neighbourhood) teams all over the city. There, neighbors can get to know each other, plan events together, prepare outreach campaigns, 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:

No Kiez team near you? We’ll set one up with you. Get in touch at mitmachen@dwenteignen.de

At university and want to support our referendum there? Then send an email to hochschulen@dwenteignen.de

Live in another city but want to support us anyway? Then get in touch at bundesweit@dwenteignen.de

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

vergesellschaften@dwenteignen.de

Aktions-AG (Action WG): organizes events and creates posters and flyers

aktionen@dwenteignen.de 

Öffentlichkeits-AG (PR WG): takes care of PR and social media

presse@dwenteignen.de 

Sammel-AG (Collection WG): coordinates the mobilization of Berliners for the election and supports the neighborhood teams

mitmachen@dwenteignen.de 

Starthilfe-AG (Getting started WG): helps tenants to organize and network

starthilfe@dwenteignen.de 

Kultur-AG (Culture WG): in charge of events and cultural activities

kultur@dwenteignen.de 

AG Right To The City For All: working group in English

Right2thecity@dwenteignen.de 

5. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Who’s behind the referendum?

The initiative „Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen“ (Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.) is organized on a grassroots democratic basis. It is supported by many committed individuals, people from tenants‘ initiatives, urban political groups, and political parties. You can find out more about us and how you can join us here.

How can I participate?

Our plenum currently meets every second Tuesday. In addition, there are seven working groups for different topics and tasks who are looking forward to your active support. If you’ve always wanted to design stickers, write flyers, or plan a concert with your favorite band, you’ll find all the info here.

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” (right2thecity@dwenteignen.de).

In order to win the referendum, we have founded Kiez (neighborhood) teams all over the city. The Kiez teams have coordinated the collection of signatures locally and are now organizing the campaign in all parts of Berlin. Interested people can approach them, and they ask cafés, stores, and clubs to support us. You want to get involved in a Kiez team? You can find the contacts here.

What happens with the petition for a referendum after the signatures have been collected?

Between February and June 2021, we managed to collect the necessary 175,000 valid signatures. This means the referendum will now take place. On September 26, 2021, Berliners will be able to vote on the expropriation of Deutsche Wohnen & Co. in parallel with the election of the Berlin House of Representatives and the Bundestag election.

The referendum is successful if the majority of those voting, and at least 25 percent of those entitled to vote, agree.

Is socialization legally possible?

Yes, according to Article 15 of the German Constitution. This states that land can be transferred to public ownership for the purpose of socialization. In the meantime, several expert reports have also proven that the socialization we are calling for is legally permissible – including reports from the expert services of the House of Representatives and the Bundestag.

Which apartments are to be socialized?

The portfolios of all profit-oriented real estate companies with more than 3,000 apartments in Berlin are to be socialized. These include, for example, Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, Akelius, Covivio, Heimstaden, Pears Global, TAG Immobilien, Grand City Properties, ADO Properties, and several others. Of these companies, all apartments are to be expropriated – not just those above the 3,000-apartment limit. In total, we are talking about at least 240,000 apartments in Berlin that we want to transfer to public ownership.

Why not expropriate all bad landlords instead of only companies with 3,000 apartments or more?

Our petition for a referendum targets large companies that invest in Berlin’s real estate market because they achieve above-average returns in the renters‘ city where there is a shortage of apartments. The more apartments they own, the more market power they exercise, for example by fighting the rent index (Mietspiegel) and the rent cap (Mietendeckel) in court, or simply ignoring both. Companies like Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, & co., which manage capital from all over the world, pursue a particularly aggressive strategy of rent increases – this is the only way they can pay their shareholders the promised dividends.

My cooperative has more than 3,000 apartments. Are they to be expropriated as well?

No, absolutely not. We are expressly concerned only with companies who intend to make a profit („Unternehmen mit Gewinnerzielungsabsicht“). That’s what it says in the text of our resolution that will be put to a vote. With socialization, we want to expand the public sector, which already includes cooperatives. We are glad that they already exist. Cooperatives should be preserved no matter what, as should all other forms of collective home ownership.

Do the tenants have to move out after expropriation?

No. The tenants will have a new landlord. After expropriation, the apartments will be transferred to an public law institution (Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts, AöR). And we have even worked out that rents could be reduced immediately.

Will the employees of Deutsche Wohnen & Co. lose their jobs if the properties are socialized?

No. The employees will then be employed by the AöR, which will be guided by the principles of decent work, i.e. the collective bargaining process and upholding collective agreements. Staff will be hired on a permanent basis for core tasks, including janitorial work and minor repairs. Unfounded fixed-term employment is prohibited. This means that the situation for employees will improve: they will be better paid and will have secure jobs. Additional jobs will also be created. After all, Deutsche Wohnen & Co. also increase their profits by cutting back on staff whenever possible and even when it is not possible.

What is a public law institution (AöR)? And why should the socialized apartments be managed by an AöR?

A public law institution (Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts, AöR) is a company under public law that is entrusted with a public task – often within the framework of services that serve the general public. Examples of public law institutions include the ARD and ZDF television broadcasters, the Berlin public transport authority (BVG) and the Berlin city cleaning services (BSR).

An AöR enables greater democratic co-determination. This also distinguishes it from state-owned housing companies, for example. We are striving for an general tenants‘ council.

Can’t large investors escape socialization by setting up subsidiaries and thereby have fewer than 3,000 apartments in their portfolio?

No, there are no loopholes. When determining the threshold, the housing stocks of all legally independent subsidiaries as well as subordinate companies of a company are also included. They are considered to be one company. So it won’t do real estate companies any good to split up into lots of small companies to get around the law.

How are you going to pay for socialization?

Article 15 of the German Constitution stipulates that expropriated companies must be compensated. However, this can be done well below market value, which has skyrocketed. We propose the fair rent model, according to which the amount of compensation would be eight billion euros.

As with any normal house purchase, the State of Berlin would not have to put all the money on the table at once. Instead, a loan will be taken out for the compensation. This loan is borne by the institution under public law (AöR), not by the Berlin state budget. The loan will be refinanced over a period of 43.5 years from current rental income. During this period, the AöR remains operational: the rents cover costs, and new projects like renovations and new construction can be carried out. The Berlin state budget therefore does not have to be burdened with the costs of socialization.

So public assets will actually accrue in value even before the loan is paid off.

What is the „fair rent model“?

Article 15 of the German Constitution does not specify a procedure for how much compensation must be paid, but it requires a balance of interests. We propose to calculate the compensation according to the rental income that the socialized apartments would generate. Our model is based on the general public’s interest in affordable housing and calculates rents that people on the poverty line could also afford – specifically a net rate of 3.70 euros per square meter, before utilities. This would result in a compensation amount of around eight billion euros. You can find more information here.

Isn’t new construction more important than expropriation? Wouldn’t the market regulate prices by itself if there were enough housing?

People with average incomes cannot afford most of the apartments that have been built privately in Berlin in recent years. These apartments are mainly rental apartments in the upper price segment and condominiums.

Companies like Deutsche Wohnen & Co. build almost no new apartments themselves, but mainly buy up apartments in order to subsequently increase the rent. That’s why we need nonprofit developers. One such developer could be the public law institution that we will establish to manage the socialized housing stock.

Aren’t smaller landlords just as bad? Why are they not expropriated?

Even the hundred worst small landlords in Berlin do not have an influence on the housing market comparable to Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Large corporations define Berlin’s real estate market with their policies. They can afford to challenge the rent index (Mietspiegel) and the rent cap (Mietendeckel) in court, and they engage in massive lobbying.

6. DONATIONS

Donations by bank transfer:

Mietenvolksentscheid e.V. 

IBAN: DE10430609671179127400 

BIC: GENODEM1GLS 

GLS Bank 

Reference: DWe

or via PayPal

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.