A significant majority of voters in Berlin, Germany’s capital, have voiced support for the expropriation of large German real estate corporations. On Sunday, 56.4 percent voted in favor, with only 39 percent voting against. The referendum was held on the same day as the federal election and the Berlin House of Representatives election.
Yes votes were cast by 1,034,709 eligible voters. The needed quorum of 25% was reached well before all ballots were tallied. The vote in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district was particularly significant. Yes was voted for by 72 percent of those present. Similarly, 64 percent of Mitte residents and nearly 61 percent in Neukölln and Lichtenberg voted in favor of expropriation. Almost every district has a majority in support of evicting rental sharks. Only in Steglitz-Zehlendorf and Reinickendorf was the no vote narrowly defeated.
This unequivocal vote in support of the expropriation of large landowners is to be applauded. It reflects popular resistance to Berlin’s and other major cities’ exorbitant rents. Rents in the city have more than quadrupled in the last decade, while the price of undeveloped property has soared eightfold. Displacement of persons who can no longer pay the exorbitant rents occurs on a daily basis, particularly in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Mitte. At the same time, businesses such as Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia, and Akelius are raking in big bucks.
The signatures gathered in the run-up to the referendum demonstrated, even before the ballots were cast, how widespread the outrage is over the rental sharks’ unfettered enrichment. Over 360,000 signatures were collected in a short period of time, significantly above the 175,000 required for the referendum to be held.
With the exception of cooperatives, the referendum calls for the expropriation of all private housing enterprises with more than 3,000 units. According to the referendum’s organizers, the initiative affects 240,000 of the capital’s 1.5 million rental flats. Compensation “well below market value” should be handed out, which is lawful. The initiators projected that it would take between €7.3 billion and €13.7 billion to pay these expenditures.
While the majority of voters supported expropriation, the Social Democrats and Greens, who won the House of Representatives election, made it abundantly clear on election night that they would continue to serve the interests of the property sharks.