Housing in Brief: 56% of Berlin Residents Vote to Expropriate Landlords

Plus, Charlotte spends Housing Trust Fund money on for-sale homes for the first time, and more.

Karl Marx Allee, Berlin

Karl Marx Allee, Berlin (Photo by mini malist / CC BY-ND 2.0)

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56% of Berlin Residents Vote to Expropriate Landlords

On Monday, 56% of Berlin residents voted in favor of expropriating major landlords, Reuters reports. They are hoping that the city will buy up to 240,000 apartments as part of the non-binding referendum.

The vote comes just a few days after Berlin and two major landlords reached a deal; the city will buy 14,750 apartments from Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen for $2.9 billion, PBS reports. The deal was made separately from the expropriation referendum, and as Next City has previously reported, was made as a concession as the two landlords prepare to merge.

With the purchase, Berlin now owns a fifth of the rental apartments in the city, but referendum organizers say that doesn’t go far enough.

Housing advocate Kalle Kunkel, said in a statement, “Ignoring the referendum would be a political scandal. We will not give up until the socialization of housing groups is implemented.”

Vonovia’s CEO criticized the vote and claimed expropriations would not fix Berlin’s housing market, instead calling for other solutions.

Berlin’s new mayor, Franziska Giffey, agreed. “I am still of the opinion that expropriations do not help to create even a single new apartment or solve the big question of affordable housing,” she told an ARD broadcaster on Monday. Giffey says she will respect the results of the referendum, but is calling on the city government to draft a bill to see if it is legally feasible.

“Such a draft then has to be checked and if it is not constitutional, then we cannot do it.”

For the First Time, Charlotte Will Use Housing Trust Fund Money for For-Sale Homes

The Charlotte City Council will invest $23 million to construct 900 affordable housing units and construct more than 30 new modestly priced homes, WSOC-TV announced.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, who toured a different Charlotte affordable housing development, praised the decision to fund for-sale homes. “Homes are our wealth,” she said, according to WSOC. “It is what we pass down to our children and our children’s children, and so if we don’t ever create something that is going to give us wealth, it is just going to be a vicious cycle.”

This decision comes after years of attempts to push for stronger affordable housing measures. Next City previously reported on the city’s policy changes to steer affordable housing projects to commercial areas near jobs and public transportation. With research showing that Charlotte needs at least 24,000 more housing units for low-income tenants, this initiative will ensure that the city does not concentrate poverty in inaccessible areas.

Study Shows Expanding Section 8 Will Bring Hundreds of Thousands of New Yorkers Out of Poverty

A report compiled by the New York Housing Conference found that expanding federal rental vouchers to all eligible recipients would bring 300,000 New York City residents out of poverty, according to Politico.

Section 8, a housing voucher program that helps low-income residents, only reaches about a quarter of eligible households nationwide because it is severely underfunded. In New York, that statistic decreases to about 21% of eligible households.

Expansion of Section 8 would cost as much as $100 billion statewide, and would allow local governments to decrease spending for homeless shelters, emergency rental assistance and more. The report also states that this would increase local economic activity with households having an additional $7,680 to spend per year.

“One of the main criticisms or the pushback on expanding Section 8 is typically around the cost, so we really wanted to show what it would mean if low-income New Yorkers had help paying their rent and weren’t extremely rent-burdened, and show that that residual income goes to paying other basic needs for their households,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference. “[The report] clearly shows households would benefit, they’d spend more on other basic needs like food and transportation, but that spending also creates jobs and economic stimulus.”

President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise to expand rental assistance so that all qualified participants can receive aid. A potential $75 billion expansion of Section 8 is currently being debated in Congress.

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.

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

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Tags: new york cityaffordable housingpublic housingcharlottehousing assistanceberlin

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