Spurred on by extreme increases in rental prices, activists have used a Berlin law which allows for binding referenda to propose the socialisation of apartments owned by the city’s largest landlords.
As part of their campaign housing groups organised a 40,000 strong rally last week.
The proposed law would create around 200,000 publicly owned homes, to be let to those in need. Importantly, they would be democratically managed by tenants and the community. The law would also ban landlords with more than 3000 homes from operating in the city.
This would drastically lower the cost of rent for hundreds of thousands of people. In many cases this will be the reacquiring of previous public housing stock.
Currently, the rental market in Germany is dominated by large property companies. These companies engage in rampart speculation, and use their control of the market to exploit loopholes in the city’s inadequate rent control laws to drive up rents.
The largest of these companies, Deuschte Wohen, owns around 110,000 properties in Berlin alone, and is well known for its substandard maintenance of homes.
To get the proposal on the ballot papers will require 20,000 signatures. This seems achievable as polling suggests that some 44% of the population support the plan, while 39% are opposed.
The push for the socialisation of housing in Berlin is in stark contrast to the pathetically weak proposals put forward by the major parties in Australia.
Like Germany, Australia has a severe housing crisis with many millions of people suffering from rent stress. The policies of both the Liberals and Labor avoid addressing the actual cause of rising rent – the profit motive and speculation.
The Socialist Party’s ‘Renter’s Fightback’ campaign also calls for the socialisation of rental homes, and for the reacquiring of privatised public housing. We demand, that as a first step, 500,000 new public homes be built or acquired.
We should start with the biggest landlords and the empty homes that are used for speculation. At the same time, we need strict rent control laws that would cap rent at 20% of a tenant’s income.
By Dane Letcher