In September, more than a million Berliners voted “yes” on a referendum calling on Berlin’s legislature to pass a law socializing the housing stock of all landlords who own more than 3,000 units. If the legislature were to do so, some 240,000 apartments, or 11% of rentals, would be expropriated by the city. Although the prospects for implementation remain complicated, the “Expropriation” campaign’s victory at the polls shows what organized tenants can do.
The referendum, which passed with 57.4% of the vote, came after a decade of organizing against displacement and rapidly rising rents in the city, processes accelerated by the short-sighted sale of a significant amount of public housing in the 2000s. Frustrated by state inaction in the face of expiring subsidized housing contracts and the recent constitutional court ruling against a Berlin rent cap, housing activists coalesced around the citizens’ initiative Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen.