Berlin voters support city forcibly buying housing from property companies to combat skyrocketing rent

In a socialist effort to reduce exploding rent prices in Berlin, Germany, angry voters are supporting the city forcibly buying housing that is owned by large property companies collectively claiming that housing is a human right.

A majority of Berlin voters, 56 percent, backed a non-binding referendum to strip housing away from landlords, wresting control of apartments and other dwellings away from those who own them over rising rents, according to Bloomberg.

Up to 226,000 apartments could be transferred into public hands if it is enacted. The properties include those owned by Deutsche Wohnen SE, which owns over 100,000 units in Berlin and Vonovia SE.

Leftists are beating the socialist drum claiming that frustration over Berlin rental fees reflects a housing schism worldwide that needs to be equalized. Rental prices have surged 13 percent in the last 12 months, according to Berlin-based real estate firm Guthmann.

More than 84 percent of residents in Berlin are tenants. Because there are fewer apartments than those wanting them, the prices are rising in the city creating an increasingly expensive rental market. It’s unknown if the local government will go for the referendum. If it does, it will almost surely impact housing investment and companies choosing to reside in the city. It could also lead to massive court battles.

The proposal takes aim at property companies that own more than 3,000 rental units. Deutsche Wohnen asserts it doesn’t expect that expropriation of apartments will take place and if it did, it would be unconstitutional.

It’s not a coincidence that the vote occurred as elections for Berlin’s city government took place. It also happened during the week that massive climate change protests occurred in Berlin and other cities across the globe.

Social Democrats will appoint the next mayor which could well push socialistic policies such as the housing referendum into reality. However, the party’s candidate, Franziska Giffey, said expropriation would not create new apartments or solve the wider housing issue. It remains to be seen if they will cave to public pressure over the matter.

Rouzbeh Taheri, who is a spokesperson for the referendum initiators, Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co., said the group will pressure politicians to carry out the measure.

“This result has given the issues of rents and housing a new importance in Berlin,” Taheri told reporters Monday. “No political party will be able to ignore that.”

Berlin is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, offering high-paying jobs and notorious nightlife. The city has progressively become more and more crowded over the last 30 years and now faces a shortage of 20,000 new homes to accommodate its growing population.

Supporters of the referendum believe that the local government will keep housing costs within livable limits. Nationalizing housing would be very expensive for Berlin.

“Not a single new apartment would be created and investments in modernization would come to a halt,” Rolf Buch, CEO of Vonovia told Reuters. Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen SE have agreed to sell 14,750 apartments to Berlin as part of a merge.

The United States is moving in a similar direction under progressive Democrats and the Biden administration. The Democrats’ massive $3.5 trillion spending proposal includes $213 billion in funding that’s earmarked for 2 million new homes, according to Business Insider.

Biden announced in September a series of regulatory changes that will seek to build 100,000 new homes and promote denser residential zoning. That means more apartments, not single-family housing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved a law that makes single-family home zoning illegal in the state, clearing the way for the building of duplexes on any single-family lot. The socialist move immediately allows for the creation of 700,0000 more homes in existing neighborhoods. By doing this, the state reversed a century-old status quo that protected property values instead of providing denser housing.

(Video Credit: CBS 8 San Diego)


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