Berlin – A majority of Berliners are in favor of the association of apartments in large real estate groups. This is evident after the votes have been counted in more than half of the polling stations. 57.1 percent of the voters then voted yes, 38.3 percent no. The proportion of yes votes was particularly high in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, at around 73 percent. In the middle, around 65 percent voted for socialization. The necessary quorum, according to which, in addition to a majority, 25 percent of those eligible to vote must also vote yes for the referendum to be successful, was already achieved before all votes were counted.
The initiative “expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” declared the referendum won in a statement. The future Senate is now called upon to draft a law to expropriate and socialize large housing groups with more than 3,000 apartments in Berlin. “Together we moved the city and shook up politics – we are celebrating that today,” said Joanna Kusiak, spokeswoman for the initiative.
According to the text of the referendum that has now been adopted, the Senate of Berlin is “requested to initiate all measures” that are necessary for the transfer of real estate and land into common ownership for the purpose of socialization in accordance with Article 15 of the Basic Law. The aim of the “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” initiative is to socialize the holdings of private companies with more than 3,000 apartments in Berlin. Publicly owned companies, municipal housing associations in private legal form and holdings in the collective ownership of tenants are excluded.
As reported, the initiative relies on Article 15 of the Basic Law. It is formulated in it that “land, natural resources and means of production” for the purpose of socialization can be transferred by law to common property or other forms of public service – against compensation for the owners. The problem: Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the so-called socialization article has not yet been used. So there is no jurisprudence on socialization and no experience with the amount of a necessary compensation. It is foreseeable that a socialization will be examined by the courts.
There are various positions on the legal admissibility of socialization. In a report presented on Thursday by the constitutional lawyer Ulrich Battis, who commissioned the business-related initiative “New Paths for Berlin”, it is said that the resolution to be voted on is largely in contradiction to the Basic Law and current case law in Germany. “There are serious legal doubts about the feasibility of a positive referendum,” explained Battis. “The socialization called for by the initiative would be a disproportionate encroachment on private property and violate the principle of equality, because only housing stocks above 3000 apartments should be socialized.” The state of Berlin also lacks the legislative competence for an expropriation law and the one planned to finance it Borrowing by an institution under public law would be an inadmissible circumvention of the debt brake ”.
Other lawyers support the view that socialization is indeed permissible, but attach certain conditions to this. From the point of view of Reiner Geulen, specialist attorney for administrative law, it is “constitutionally fundamentally possible to convert land, including residential real estate”, according to Article 15 “into a public, non-profit-making form”. But a socialization law must observe the principle of equal treatment. Concerns could arise from the fact that only “private” housing companies should be socialized, but not those that belong to the public sector. Socialization would be inadmissible “if it is not necessary,” states Geulen. This means “that a socialization law must be checked to see whether the goal – the creation of adequate living space – can also be achieved without socialization”.
What follows from the vote?
A socialization is controversial mainly because of the amount of the necessary compensation. In the official cost estimate, the compensation costs for the association of around 243,000 apartments are estimated at 28.8 to 36 billion euros – plus ancillary acquisition costs. The “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen und Co.” initiative assumes that the compensation will be lower. According to the communication on the referendum, the initiative estimates the compensation at 7.3 to 13.7 billion euros. On the basis of a “fair rent model” for 243,000 apartments, the initiative comes to compensation of around ten to eleven billion euros.
The consequences of the referendum are open. The SPD, CDU and FDP reject socialization, the left is in favor, the Greens see it as an “ultima ratio”. The next Senate must examine what follows from the vote. Opponents of a socialization like the FDP parliamentary group chairman Sebastian Czaja classify the decision as an appeal. Both SPD top candidate Franziska Giffey and Czaja have promised to take the result of the referendum seriously and to have it legally checked. The referendum means a tailwind for the Green top candidate Bettina Jarasch, who had declared that she wanted to use the referendum to move the landlord voluntarily to a rental protection umbrella in favor of the tenants. In the run-up to the election, several organizations in the construction and real estate industry called on the state government to form an alliance for new buildings.
Akelius sells its 14,050 Berlin apartments
Apparently, not all companies rely on cooperation. The Akelius company announced on Sunday evening that it was separating from 14,050 apartments in Berlin and around 3,600 apartments in Hamburg. The Swedish housing company Heimstaden Bostad AB will be the new owner. Akelius had been criticized in recent years for high rents when concluding new rental contracts and would have belonged to the group of companies that would have been affected by a socialization.