Housing in Brief: Berlin Will Vote on Expropriating Apartments in September
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Housing in Brief: Berlin Will Vote on Expropriating Apartments in September

intersecting street sign

Berlin's government purchased three buildings on Karl-Marx Allee in 2019, leading to the movement to re-nationalize many more homes. (Photo by Mike Steele / CC BY 2.0)

Activists Gather Over 343,000 Signatures to Place Landlord Buyout on the Ballot

Berlin may be forced to buy out large landlords after activists gathered nearly double the threshold necessary for a referendum ballot in September, Bloomberg reports.

In a movement spearheaded by the city’s rent freeze during the pandemic, organizers are pushing for greater change as Berlin’s rent continues to surge. Insider reports that rent has doubled in the last decade, and with more than 80% of Berlin’s residents renting their homes, this movement has been popular among the public.

Supporters of the movement are specifically targeting landlords that have more than 3,000 apartments in the city. The city would buy out over 240,000 homes, bringing them under the administration of a public agency, according to The Local.

These demands are not new, however. Residents of Berlin have long been asking for change as Next City previously reported on the possibility of a referendum in 2019, after residents feared they would be priced out of their homes when buildings were sold to Deutsche Wohnen AG, one of the city’s largest landlords and notorious for finding loopholes in rent regulations. The city decided to purchase three of the buildings, leading activists to ask for more buybacks.
With an upcoming German national election in the following months, affordable housing is back on the agenda. Meanwhile, Vonovia SE, one of Deutsche Wohnen AG’s competitors, is hoping to take over Deutsche Wohnen AG, a move that would “see Germany’s two largest residential landlords combine into an entity controlling more than 500,000 apartments.” As a concession, the company offered to sell 20,000 units to the city, build 13,000 new apartments, and limit rent increases, as stated in another Bloomberg report.

NJ LGBTQ Youth Shelter Expands to Provide Permanent Supportive Housing

An organization that operates a shelter for LGBTQ youth is now working to establish permanent supportive housing for LGBTQ adults in Newark, according to NJ.com.

Shelter operator the RAIN Foundation and partners will provide comprehensive health and financial support to tenants housed in one of 11 units that are being built on a vacant lot.

In speaking with NJ.com, Elaine Helms, head of The RAIN Foundation, described the difficulty in running her shelter during the pandemic due to the increased number of youth dropped off at her shelter. Even those who leave, she adds, continue to face housing instability due to discrimination.

“[The landlord] may cut off their heat. They might not fix things in the home. They do things that make them want to leave.”

Helms is undergoing this expansion with the support of city officials who have committed $1.3 million to the project and provided the land at a price below market value.

NYC Calls for New Community Land Trust Partner to Develop Affordable Housing in Queens

New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is asking for a new community land trust partner to create proposals for affordable homeownership opportunities in Edgemere, Queens, per a press release obtained by Next City. It is the first time the city has required respondents to be community land trusts.

Edgemere, Queens was chosen in part due to years of disinvestment. However, the area is also vulnerable to floods as rising sea levels and damage from natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have brought serious problems to the region’s residents.

In a statement, HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said, “This Administration is deeply committed to expanding the role of CLTs as a tool to bring long-term stability and affordability to neighborhoods throughout New York City. We are grateful to the Edgemere community and their elected officials for their continued partnership in delivering on the goals of the plan to ensure a more resilient future for the neighborhood.”

Eight acres of land have been identified so far, with half of the vacant lots planned to be used for housing, and the other half to be used either commercially or as a space for the community.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga is completing her degree in political science and journalism at Rutgers University, with plans to graduate in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate voices of underrepresented communities in her work.  

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Tags: new york cityaffordable housingprotestslgbtqberlinhousing solutionsqueens

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