Berlin votes for expropriation

In Berlin, the referendum for the expropriation of large housing corporations was successful. This is to be welcomed, but the result is not legally binding. In addition, the process is reminiscent of the participation of the SPD and the LEFT in the original sale of the apartments. Nevertheless, the current commitment of LEFT-wing politicians for the good vote result should be emphasized. In the capital, the SPD was also the strongest force in the election to the House of Representatives: this could jeopardize the expropriation plans.

The citizens of Berlin have spoken out in favour of the expropriation of large housing corporations, as media reports. 56,4 Percent of voters therefore voted on Sunday in a referendum in favor, 39,0 percent rejected the project, as the state election administration announced on Monday morning.

At the same time, the necessary minimum quorum for the approval of a quarter of the eligible voters had been achieved. Thus, the Berlin Senate according to the text of the resolution is now called upon to "initiate all measures" that are necessary for the transfer of real estate into public ownership. To this end, politicians should draw up a law.

"DISREGARD of the referendum would be a political scandal"

However, the vote is not legally binding on politicians. In fact, no specific draft law was voted on, which would now have been decided directly by the successful referendum. Nevertheless, the newly elected House of Representatives will probably have to deal with the vote. For example, the initiative "Deutsche Wohnen und Co enteignen" wants to intensively accompany the upcoming coalition negotiations according to its own information: "We do not accept either stalling strategies or interception attempts. Disregarding the referendum would be a political scandal. We will not let up until the socialization of housing groups is implemented," says Kalle Kunkel, spokesman for the initiative. And speaker Joanna Kusiak adds according to a statement:

"No matter in which composition – the future government coalition will have to implement the socialization of housing corporations. The demand for socialization unites far more voices behind it than any party. We Berliners:inside have decided: No one is allowed to speculate with our apartments.”

The future Senate is called upon to draft a law on the socialization of around 240,000 apartments in Berlin. All private housing companies with more than 3,000 apartments in the capital would be affected, with the exception of cooperatives. The focus of the initiative would be around a dozen real estate companies.

Referendum reminds of housing sell-off by SPD and LEFT

The result of the referendum is gratifying. The support of LEFT-wing politicians for the initiative as well - but this support should not make us forget that it was also LEFT-wing politicians who were at least indirectly involved in the sale of numerous urban apartments after 2002, as described in this article:

"The red-red coalition represents the state government, which holds the record in the sale of state-owned apartments and at the same time is the least talked about. A reason to celebrate for financial investors such as Cerberus and Co. It was quietly sold off, what the stuff holds. The launch, the sale of the GSW, was still celebrated as a local rescue act in favor of the household coffers. A political opposition was found only in the ranks of the Social Democrats, where Gerlinde Schermer and Hans-Georg Lorenz showed civil courage and steadfastness. The coalition partner, who was at the time operating as a PDS, left it to a local figure from Prenzlauer Berg, Dr. Michael Nelken, to emphatically cheer the sale as an "emergency sale" and to convince the party clientele of the empty budget coffers."

Despite this participation of LEFT-wing politicians in the development of the housing misery in Berlin and despite the loss business possibly resulting from expropriation, it is very welcome that one has learned from one's own mistakes and that the LEFT has led the important project to success.

Which coalition implements the referendum?

But since the result is not legally binding, the initiative needs strong advocates in politics. Among many other reasons, a look at the result of the election to the Berlin House of Representatives is also interesting for this reason – the SPD was able to achieve success not only in the federal government and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: The Social Democrats also won the election to the Berlin House of Representatives with leading candidate Franziska Giffey, albeit with less distance than expected and only after a shaky party with the participation of the Greens: In Berlin, the SPD has become the strongest force with 21.4 percent of the vote according to media reports – ahead of the Greens, who came to 18.9 percent. The CDU follows with 18,1 percent; the LEFT loses with 14 percent slightly compared to 2016; AfD (8 percent) and FDP (7,1 percent) make it into parliament again. As a result, Berlin will probably be governed by a tripartite alliance in the future, as it has been until now.

SPD top candidate Franziska Giffey is very likely to succeed the governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD), who will change to the Bundestag. He has previously led an alliance with the Greens and the LEFT. Mathematically, a continuation of red-red-green would be possible. According to media reports, the leading candidates of the Greens and the LEFT were also in favour. Giffey did not do this according to RBB directly, but said on election night that there was now "a clear vote for SPD and Greens". In the event of victory, the SPD will "also talk to all other parties", but the will of the voters is clear. However, despite Giffey's narrow victory, it is clear that her indirect strategic advances towards the CDU and FDP did not lead to the presumed (stronger) success in the election campaign, as the Green top candidate Bettina Jarasch noted on Monday morning on rbb's Inforadio.

What the SPD's victory in Berlin means for coalitions and for the implementation of the referendum remains to be seen. With regard to the referendum, however, the signs are rather unfavorable – Giffey has always clearly positioned herself against it: She rejects the plans, as she explained to Deutschlandfunk before the election:

"I think it's important that we make it clear that we stand for affordable rents, but not for a way that says we solve it by expropriating apartments," says Franziska Giffey. Through socialization, billions of euros in compensation amounts would be due‘ ’which do not lead to the fact that even a single new apartment is created', said the SPD top candidate for the election to the Berlin House of Representatives."