What Housing Organizers in the U.S. Can Learn from Berlin's Re-Socialization Campaign

More than half of Berlin voters approved a non-binding referendum to resocialize a quarter-million apartments. What can housing organizers in the U.S. learn?

October 20, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By rkaufman


Germany Capital City

Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock

At the end of September, Berliners went to the polls to vote for a new city and federal government. Their ballots included a controversial measure, Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen (Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen), calling for the socialization of the city’s largest landlords, who control about 10 percent (or 240,000 units) of the city’s housing stock. In a non-binding referendum, voters were asked if the city government should purchase the portfolios of landlords who own 3,000 or more apartments in Berlin. While the two most popular parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, received 21.4 percent and 18.9 percent of the vote, respectively, most voters–56 percent–voted in favor of the referendum. Berliners are in much greater agreement over socialization than what the city’s next government should look like.

From a U.S. perspective, a successful campaign organized around housing socialization may seem like a difficult proposition. However, calls to reclaim grossly inflated real estate for the public good have recently become more prevalent in the United States, because U.S. cities are facing similar market pressures to Berlin’s. And, even though the socialization campaign is rooted in the particularities of German constitutional law and local political conditions, its underlying logic—that local governments should counteract aggressive speculative practices and act as a sort of anti-real estate state — is present in the work of U.S. based housing activists, from Oakland to Minneapolis to New York.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 in Next City

The New York Public Library's stone lions Patience and Fortitude have donned face masks to remind New Yorkers to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Top Urban Planning Books of 2021

Planetizen's annual list of the top urban planning books of the year is here—maintaining a tradition that dates back to 2002.

November 26, 2021 - James Brasuell

Empty Road

The Roadway Expansion Paradox

Motorists want expensive roadway expansions provided that somebody else foots the bill, but when required to pay directly through tolls, the need for more capacity often disappears. What should planners do?

November 28, 2021 - Todd Litman

Moving

Urban Exodus: Data Don't Support the Popular Pandemic Narrative

Americans fled cities in waves during the pandemic, right? Not to so fast.

November 30, 2021 - Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

Main Street

Inequality Grows in Western Zoom Towns

As demand for housing grows, small Western towns are experiencing skyrocketing housing costs and rising displacement.

December 3 - High Country News

A Metro Los Angeles bus driver is behind the wheel while wearing a mask.

Equity and Transit Go Hand in Hand for the Pandemic Recovery

Equity illuminates the light at the end of the tunnel for U.S. transit agencies, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute.

December 3 - Urban Institute

South Beach Open Streets

Miami Reinstates E-Scooter Program

After abruptly ending its shared e-scooter program last month, Miami is letting the devices return to its streets–with some new rules.

December 3 - Smart Cities Dive

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.