Episode 47 – Housing Expropriation Referendum in Berlin: How it was won and what comes next?

On the 26th of September over million Berliners voted to expropriate and return to public ownership over 200,000 homes in the city. Deutsche Wohnen und Co Enteignen targeted a number of large real estate companies in Berlin that had control of what had previously been social housing stock. The referendum is not legally binding, requiring the support of the governing parties in the Berlin parliament, who are now tasked with legislating on the issue. The composition of the governing coalition has yet to be determined, although it is clear that the Social Democrats will lead, having emerged as the largest party in the elections on the same as the referendum. 

This podcast examines the background to this historic victory and considers the implications for housing politics in Berlin and beyond. We remind ourselves what the campaign was about, we look at what happened, what might happen next and the likely challenges in store. We also consider the wider implications of the Berlin case. 

We are very happy to welcome back two guests from previous podcasts on the subject.

Episode transcript

Our guests:

Joanna Kusiak

Joanna is a Research Fellow in Urban Studies at King’s College, Cambridge and a Visiting Scholar at Georg Simmel Center. Her work focuses on land, property and the role that legal technicalities play in shaping our cities. She is also an activist at Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen – her most recent papers on the initiative can be found here.

Andrej Holm

Andrej holds a doctorate in social science and is a research assistant at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His topics are urban and housing policy and associated social conflicts. In his research projects, he has dealt with urban renewal, gentrification and forced evictions, among other things. In addition to his academic work at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, he has been involved in neighbourhood initiatives and tenants’ organisations for over 25 years and actively campaigns for the right to housing.