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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Berlin residents take aim at property speculators and investors in referendum vote

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More than 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell and Soviet-style communism in East Germany collapsed, voters in the reunited German capital voted overwhelmingly by a 56% to 39% margin in Sunday’s elections in favour of a non-binding referendum that calls upon the city government to step in and expropriate flats owned by private companies.

Frustrations over gentrification and rapidly rising rent costs in a city that long enjoyed a global reputation for extremely low rents and a bohemian lifestyle have boiled over in recent years with first, a failed attempt last year to put a five-year freeze on all rent increases and now the referendum calling for “Enteignung” – or the forced sale of all housing by large-scale landlords owning more than 3,000 flats.

The rent freeze was already declared unconstitutional in April by Germany’s highest court in Karlsruhe and the latest attempt to expropriate the estimated 240,000 – or 15% of the privately owned flats in Berlin — currently in the hands of six large private companies would probably suffer a similar fate, according to legal scholars and some political leaders. Berlin, a city of 3.8 million and growing by 25,000 to 40,000 per year recently, has as a total of about 2 million flats.

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