Berlin: Will expropriation help solve the housing shortage?

The majority of Berliners voted on Sunday for the expropriation of housing belonging to private housing companies that own more than 3,000 apartments in the city. However, the vote is not legally binding. Media all over Europe are discussing the referendum. While some dismiss its goals as unrealistic, others see it as a sign of the times - and not just for Berlin.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Radical and encouraging

The result could spark changes on the property market elsewhere too, says The Irish Times:

“The referendum follows a broader trend of political action around this issue seen across Europe over the summer. In June, Sweden's Prime Minister became the first ever to lose a motion of no confidence after proposing an end to rent caps on new-build homes in the midst of Sweden's housing crisis. A fortnight ago, 15,000 people marched in Amsterdam in a demonstration against soaring house prices and rents across the Netherlands. Berlin's campaign to expropriate is radical. ... As activists triumph in Berlin, thousands of Irish families remain homeless, and their numbers are growing. The time for a referendum is now.”

Jurnalul National (RO) /

Democratic mechanisms work

Jurnalul National pays tribute to the campaign:

“The vote paves the way for the transfer into state hands of around 240,000 apartments, which form a speculative market in Berlin. In this market, rents have doubled in the last decade. Even in a country where private property seems to be sacred, democratic mechanisms for regulating the market, including communalisation with compensation, are clearly taking effect through a referendum.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Economic illiteracy

The proponents are clearly fooling themselves, says Die Presse:

“It probably won't come to that. ... For one thing, the concept of property is enshrined in the German constitution, and is not so easy to undermine. Especially not by means of the genuine, almost compensation-free expropriation the initiators have in mind. On the other hand, the city of Berlin can't afford the 36 billion euros that would be required to pay compensation that comes anywhere close to market value. So it's not just the result of the referendum that is frightening. It's also the incredible economic illiteracy of major portions of the population, as well as in politics, that it reveals.”

Evenimentul Zilei (RO) /

In once-divided Berlin, of all places

Evenimentul Zilei is baffled that such a demand has wide backing in a city like Berlin:

“Berlin is not just any city, Berlin is the city where the Wall fell. ... That was the end of the Cold War, a historical moment whose significance we suddenly forget today when faced with economic problems. Here, we would expect egalitarian solutions to economic problems to be off the agenda, or rejected outright by the very people whose families were once separated by the Iron Curtain and knew how those who tried to escape over the Wall to the West were shot.”