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Germany: Berlin residents vote for the expropriation of real estate giants | News | DW

Voters in the German capital Berlin, in addition to voting for the composition of the new German parliament and for their local legislature, also participated in a referendum on whether to force large real estate companies to sell most of their homes.

With Berliners casting more votes in a day than the city ever had, there was chaos and delays at several polling stations. About 34,000 assistants worked in more than 2,250 polling stations across the city.

Therefore, the final results of the non-binding referendum are not expected until Monday.

After having counted 27% of the votes, a clear margin was already emerging: 56.9% voted for and only 39% against the proposal.

“This is only an extrapolation, we will not have the final results until tomorrow! But even this figure shows that Berliners are tired of speculation and crazy rents,” said on Twitter the movement of expropriation of Berlin housing companies.

The measure required a simple majority to pass as well as a “yes” vote of at least a quarter of all eligible voters, but, even if passed, that would only force the new city-state government of Berlin to discuss the proposal.

The results came after Berliners had a busy day at the polls, as they had also been invited to vote in national Bundestag elections, regional state-level elections and district council elections. The city also decided to hold a marathon on the same day, adding to chaos in the Berlin polling stations, which may have added to the delays in the counting of the ballots.

There were 115 different ballots to include all the different votes in progress, according to regional broadcaster RBB24.

What would an expropriation mean?

The vote was the result of a popular campaign to “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co”. A successful vote would pave the way for the Berlin Senate to draft a law that would allow the expropriation of real estate companies with more than 3,000 homes. Businesses would be reimbursed for properties at a rate “well below market value,” according to the campaign.

The vote came after the German Constitutional Court overturned a rent cap introduced in the capital by the ruling left-wing coalition. Housing prices and rents have been a major problem for residents of Berlin due to the high prices.

Activists believe the legislation would be constitutionally compatible with German Basic Law under Article 15, never used before, which states: “Land, natural resources and the means of production may, for the purposes of nationalization, be transferred to public property or other forms of public enterprise by a law which determines the nature and extent of compensation.

“It’s not binding, but the next state legislature will have to debate it. As the housing crisis puts pressure on tenants, expect the pressure to stay on the poles to do something.” , tweeted DW reporter William Glucroft.

The housing crisis in Berlin

Real estate giant Deutsche Wohnen owns around 113,000 homes in the German capital. It was the main target of the referendum campaign. But several other companies, such as Vonovia, which is trying to buy out Deutsche Wohnen, and Pears Group are also said to be affected by the expropriation legislation.

The referendum was also accompanied by a debate on the conformity of the proposed plan with the German constitution, and any future legislation could be challenged in court.

The capital, with its population of around 3.6 million, is suffering from a housing crisis. The outgoing coalition of the Greens, the center-left SPD and the more radical left-wing party tried to impose a temporary rent-price freeze, but this was overturned by Germany’s highest court in April, when judges ruled stated that such powers could only be adopted at the federal level, and not by an individual German state.

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