Demonstration against "rent madness" on 6. April 2019 in berlin. Photo: leonhard lenz.0
Initiative "german housing co. Expropriate"berlin takes further steps toward socialization
Collecting has an end. The initiative "german housing co. Expropriate" has at the end of the collection phase, according to its own data, the senate a total of 343.591 signatures handed over, – for a referendum are only 175.000 signatures needed.
This means that it is as good as certain that on 26. In september, berlin will be allowed to vote on whether the senate should stop work on a bill to socialize for-profit real estate companies with more than 3.000 apartments is to begin. Irrespective of the further course of the campaign, its political success is already obvious.
Political unity within the left
Because the campaign has united forces within the berlin left, which rarely pull in the same direction. Even sahra wagenknecht, who is currently not exactly conspicuous for her efforts to promote cohesion within the left, was forced to make a statement in a telepolis-interview "we remain permanently below our possibilities" admitted that "initiatives in which people work together for a social cause are doing the right thing", do the right thing, even if a few "lifestyle leftists" get involved.
Nevertheless, wagenknecht is right: "deutsche wohnen co. Expropriate" is a goal that anarchists, trade unionists, queer activists, feminists and even parts of the middle class can agree on. Such political unanimity within the left is otherwise achieved by blob climate protection.
While there have always been voices that have used the term "expropriation" some because they thought that expropriation should take place without compensation, others because the term reminded them of the last dictatorship. But hardly anyone in the broader spectrum of the left had serious objections to a referendum and to targeted action against profit-oriented private housing companies.
Certainly, the abolition of the rent cap during a pandemic may have contributed some to the success of the initiative: "DW expropriation" gave against telepolis an, on the weekend after the abolition of the rent cap, several 10.000 signatures collected.
Federal politics: not covered in glory
And also the federal policy has not covered itself with glory during the corona crisis in the matter of housing law. In january, for example, a proposal by the left-wing parliamentary group in the bundestag to ban forced evictions by law in times of the corona crisis was rejected by all parties except the greens.
Those affected are therefore still dependent on judicial clemency. In berlin, interior senator geisel (SPD) used the pandemic for a wave of evictions against occupied properties. This failed most recently at the partially occupied house project rigaer94, as the court order to police "entering the apartments in the course of fire safety inspection" not allowed.
In the past, the SPD was as committed to the protection of the milieu as it was to the eviction and closure of left-wing projects "DW expropriation" had certainly had a harder time finding such enormous support among the population. Now that the housing crisis can no longer be ignored, the berlin senate, under the leadership of the SPD, has begun to make use of its right of first refusal.
While this happened in significantly fewer cases in 2020 than it did in 2019, the senate indicated "2020 both through the exercise of pre-emptive rights and through averts berlin-wide 4.121 apartments secured. This represents a "doubling compared to 2019 (1).851 apartments)".
Rent cap: berliners pissed off
Other attempts by the senate to give the "rent madness" to put a stop to it, symbolic gestures remained. Unfortunately, this was also the case with the rent cap, which was by no means a radical innovation in tenancy law, but merely addressed the weak points of the nationwide rent brake, a legal regulation so full of loopholes that it could be ignored by landlords in many cases.
It is also interesting to note that the rent cap, in contrast to the mietpreisbremse, provided for severe penalties for landlords in the event of violations of the obligation to provide information and other offenses.
At least since the end of the rent cap, many berliners are so pissed off that they are seriously considering the rough socialization of real estate as a political means.
It is of little help when vonovia – the very company in which the "deutsche wohnen" will soon open – waive the back rent payments by tenants resulting from the rent cap. Nevertheless, it is a small cause for rejoicing when coarse companies such as vonovia are distracted from the political climate and initiatives like "DW expropriation" show impressed.
No matter how hard real estate companies like vonovia, along with burgermeister muller, try to put a social spin on it, the initiative "DW expropriation" and 343.000 people do not want to cooperate with the "eye-high talk", but a decoupling of urban housing from a real estate market overexcited by investors.
The blame for the tense situation lies with the growing real estate bubble in germany. Fewer and fewer germans have the chance of owning their own home at some point in the future "although incomes in germany have risen recently and interest rates have fallen, prices have unfortunately grown faster than equity".
So even the middle class has to rent in some areas, and this at a time when rents are rising in line with the level of investment, albeit at a much slower pace.
A fundamental debate
"DW expropriation" is not the only initiative that specifically seeks to create housing with stable rents that is independent of the market. Organizations such as the miethauser syndikat and new projects such as stadtbodenstiftung in berlin, as well as many cooperatives and house projects throughout germany, have also long since realized that it is not possible to live well in the long term in a free market economy.
Whether "DW expropriation" it remains to be seen whether the campaign will actually succeed and how such a crude socialization will affect berlin’s real estate bubble, because without further political backing such a drastic approach as the campaign wants to achieve is hardly conceivable.
In any case, the movement has sparked an overriding debate on principles – and that in the so-called "super election year". At least young people (16 to 35 year olds) seem to agree on the occasion of the federal election (96 percent) that it is high time for stronger government regulation of the housing market. 40 percent even consider housing a basic right that should not be used to make a profit.
On the occasion of such unity among the younger part of the population, a party like the SPD, which really had enough reasons to look exclusively into the future, could also begin to question some cherished principles – in berlin as well as at the federal level.