Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen

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Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.
Campaign logo
Native name Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen
LocationBerlin, Germany
Votes %
Yes 1,035,950 59.14%
No 715,698 40.86%
Valid votes 1,751,648 97.41%
Invalid or blank votes 46,660 2.59%
Total votes 1,798,308 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 2,447,600 73.47%

Results by borough

The 2021 Berlin referendum, formally referred to as Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen (English: Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.) or DW enteignen, was a referendum held and passed in Berlin in 2021. Voters were asked if they approved of the expropriation of the property of private real-estate companies with 3,000 or more units in the city, through public purchases by the Berlin state government. This would affect 243,000 rental apartments out of 1.5 million total apartments in Berlin. The largest such real-estate company is Deutsche Wohnen, for which the initiative is named, followed by Vonovia.[1] In total, the referendum would impact 12 large real-estate companies.[2]

The initiative for the referendum was originally launched in 2018, but the emergence of a new tenant movement in Berlin dates back to the early 2010s, including a first rent-referendum in 2015 called "Mietenvolksentscheid".[3] The new referendum successfully passed the first signature-collecting phase in July 2019, receiving at least 58,000 valid signatures of the 20,000 required; and the second phase in June 2021, receiving at least 175,000 of the 170,000 required.

The referendum took place on 26 September 2021 alongside the state and federal election. The expropriation proposal passed the legal quorum of 25% of eligible voters being in favour and a majority of votes, receiving the approval of 57.6% of voters, with 39.8% voters against. The result is non-binding.[4]

Exactly two years later on 26 September 2023, the campaign announced plans for a second referendum, which would be legally binding unlike the previous one.[5]


Article 14 of the Basic Law states that "property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good".[6] This passage dates from 1949 and has never been used before.[7] But the existence of an article allowing socialization was employed to advocate for pauses on rent increases or expropriation of high-volume property ownership.[8]

Article 15 states the legal basis i.e "Grund und Boden [..] können zum Zwecke der Vergesellschaftung durch ein Gesetz [..] in Gemeineigentum.. überführt werden"[9] (Land, natural resources and means of production may, for the purpose of socialization, be transferred to public ownership or other forms of public enterprise by a law that determines the nature and extent of compensation).[10] Article 15 has never been used in practice.[8]

Even if the referendum passes, it would not be legally binding,[11] and specific language would need to be spelled out, including compensation amounts which then would need to be passed by the Berlin Senate.[8] The German constitution says the compensation amount should balance the interests of the public and other stakeholders.[8] It would cost taxpayers an estimated amount between 7 and 36 billion euros, with the higher end being market rates.[2][11] If the compensation amount is on the higher end, it could diminish the initiative's effectiveness.[12]

First referendum[edit]

Signature collection—phase 1[edit]

A total of 77,001 signatures were collected between April and July 2019. At least 58,000 of them were validated, exceeding the 20,000 signatures quorum required for a legal review by the Berlin Senate Department for the Interior and Sports.[11][13]

Legal review[edit]

The legal review by the Berlin Senate took place over a period of 441 days from 4 July 2019 to 17 September 2020.[11] Senator for Interior Geisel was accused of intentionally delaying the review by the initiative, The Left and Green parties.[11] The text of the resolution was modified in order to be legally compliant.[11][14]

Signature collection—phase 2[edit]

A further 349,658 signatures were collected over a four month period between 26 February and 25 June 2021.[10] At least 261,000 signatures were checked, with over 175,000 of them being legally valid, exceeding the quorum of 170,000 signatures or 7% of eligible voters (German Berlin citizens) required to initiate a public referendum.[15] It was the highest number of signatures ever collected in a Berlin referendum.[10]

Referendum vote[edit]

The referendum passed with just over one million Berliners or 59.1% of the total vote in favour.[16]

Expert commission[edit]

After the referendum passed, a 13 member expert commission was established to determine the constitutionality of the referendum and its compatibility with Article 15 of the Basic Law that deals with expropriation. On 28 June 2023, nearly two years later, the commission concluded in its 150 page report that landlords can be expropriated and compensated with below-market value by the Berlin government.[17]

Second referendum[edit]

On 26 September 2023, two years after the first referendum passed, campaign organizers announced a plan for a second referendum, a legal referendum that would be legally binding in contrast with the first one.[5]

First referendum results[edit]

Poster for the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen campaign with the slogan "Ja! zum Volksentscheid" (Vote yes for the referendum!)

With the signature collection phase cleared, a referendum was scheduled for 26 September 2021, the same day as the Berlin state and federal elections. A majority of votes in favour of the referendum and a minimum of 25% of all eligible voters in favour were needed for the referendum to succeed, approximately 625,000 votes.[18][19] In 2013, the energy referendum was approved by 83% of those who voted, but failed because only 24.2% of eligible Berlin voters, voted in favour, while quorum required 25% or more voters to pass.[20]

Valid votes1,751,64897.41
Invalid/blank votes46,6602.59
Total votes1,798,308100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,447,60073.47
Source: Berlin Elections
Valid Voter Tally by District[16]
District Yes (Ja) No (Nein)
Voters Percent Voters Percent
01 – Mitte 95,681 63.7% 47,948 31.9%
02 – Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg 95,207 72.4% 31,632 24.0%
03 – Pankow 134,339 60.8% 78,261 35.4%
04 – Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf 83,422 50.1% 75,263 45.2%
05 – Spandau 57,563 51.9% 47,610 42.9%
06 – Steglitz-Zehlendorf 77,237 44.0% 89,452 51.0%
07 – Tempelhof-Schöneberg 93,887 53.4% 73,656 41.9%
08 – Neukölln 84,749 60.7% 47,063 33.7%
09 – Treptow-Köpenick 91,431 58.5% 58,722 37.6%
10 – Marzahn-Hellersdorf 75,410 55.8% 53,244 39.4%
11 – Lichtenberg 88,032 60.9% 50,260 34.8%
12 – Reinickendorf 57,751 45.1% 62,103 48.5%
Berlin combined 1,034,709 56.4% 715,214 39.0%


Support Oppose
Housing groups Berlin Tenant Association [de], Berlin Tenant Community [de].[21]
Political parties The Left, Greens,[22] JUSOS (SPD Youth)[23] SPD,[6][24] CDU,[15] AfD, FDP[24]
Trade unions IG Metall, GEW, ver.di and DGB Jugend[25]
Interest groups Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Companies [de][26]

Conceptual development and publications[edit]

The initiative Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen started with a one-page paper listing their demands in fall 2018, a condensed version became the text of the referendum in 2019-2021. Between 2020 and 2023 the initiative expanded its concepts of socialization step by step and published several brochures dealing from tenant organization, legal and financial requirements of expropriation to climate justice. In 2022, an edited volume published by the initiative summarized the German debate on socialization, including voices from legal experts, the Berlin Senate, trade unions and environmental organizations.[27] The volume also included a proposed law on socialization of housing, drafted by the initiative in 2021. Since federal law in Germany knows no standardized institutional form for socialized land, the initiative in 2023 further conceptualized their model of a public law institution called "Gemeingut Wohnen" that could take over administration of socialized housing stock in Berlin.[28]

Edited Volume

  • Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen: Wie Vergesellschaftung gelingt – Zum Stand der Debatte, parthas, Berlin 2022, ISBN 978-3-86964-130-0.

Brochures edited by Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Germans protest against rising rents and portfolio-hungry landlords". euronews. 6 April 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Berlin's rental revolution: activists push for properties to be nationalised". The Guardian. 4 April 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  3. ^ Ralf Hoffrogge, Housing for the People, Jacobin Magazine Online, June 4th 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2024
  4. ^ Paul, Ulrich (26 September 2021). "Volksentscheid: Mehr als eine Million Berliner wollen Wohnungen enteignen" [Referendum: More than one million Berliners want to expropriate flats.]. Berliner Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  5. ^ a b Iser, Jurik Caspar (26 September 2023). "Dann halt ohne die Regierung" [Then without the government]. Die Zeit. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  6. ^ a b Knight, Ben (27 October 2019). "Berlin Social Democrats reject expropriation of homes | DW | 27.10.2019". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  7. ^ Joanna Kusiak, Trespassing the Law - Critical legal engineering as a strategy for action research, in, Area, Volume 53, Issue 4, December 2021, Pages 603-610
  8. ^ a b c d Würmann, Isaac (10 May 2021). "A Radical Plan to Stop Rising Rents by Seizing Apartments From Landlords". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  9. ^ Schulz, Bert (25 June 2021). "Initiative Deutsche Wohnen enteignen: Ansage an Politik und Wirtschaft" [Initiative Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen: Announcement to politics and economy]. Die Tageszeitung (in German). ISSN 0931-9085. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Flakin, Nathaniel (24 February 2021). "Red Flag: Nationalise Deutsche Wohnen!". Exberliner magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2021.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ a b c d e f Joswig, Gareth (17 September 2020). "Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen zulässig: Sozialismus kann kommen" [Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen permissibly: Socialism can arrive]. Die Tageszeitung (in German). ISSN 0931-9085. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  12. ^ Casey, Ruairi; Ponsford, Matthew (17 November 2020). "Berliners want to expropriate 250,000 homes. Here's what stands in their way". City Monitor. Archived from the original on 14 August 2021. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  13. ^ Wiens, Bernhard (28 July 2019). "Wem gehört die Mieterstadt?" [Who owns the tenant city?]. heise online (in German). Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  14. ^ "Zulässigkeitsprüfung für Volksbegehren abgeschlossen" [Admissibility check for petition for a referendum completed]. (in German). 17 September 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2021., see also: Ralf Hoffrogge: Vergesellschaftung von Wohnraum – Die Initiative »Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen« und ihr Volksentscheid, in: Hermann K. Heußner/Arne Pautsch/Frank Rehmet/Lukas Kiepe (Hrsg.): Mehr direkte Demokratie wagen. Volksentscheid und Bürgerentscheid: Geschichte – Praxis – Vorschläge, 4. edition, Reinbek 2024, p. 295–308, here p. 300–303
  15. ^ a b "Enteignungs-Initiative hat wohl genügend Unterschriften für Volksentscheid" [Expropriation initiative probably has enough signatures for referendum] (in German). RBB24. Archived from the original on 25 September 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Volksentscheid „Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen" 2021" [Referendum "Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen" 2021]. Wahlen Berlin. 26 September 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  17. ^ Goodman, Imogen (29 June 2023). "Berlin landlords can legally be expropriated, expert panel rules". The Local .
  18. ^ Sullivan, Arthur (24 September 2021). "Berlin faces expropriation vote: What happens if the people say 'yes'? | DW | 24.09.2021". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 7 September 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Immobilien-Volksentscheid findet am 26. September statt" [Real estate referendum takes place on 26 September]. RBB24 (in German). Archived from the original on 22 September 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  20. ^ "Berlin Referendum on Buying Electricity Grid from Vattenfall Fails". Der Spiegel. 4 November 2013. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  21. ^ Groll, Tina. "Werden jetzt Immobilienkonzerne in Berlin enteignet?" [Are real estate companies in Berlin being expropriated?]. Die Zeit (in German). Archived from the original on 25 June 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  22. ^ "Berliner Grüne befürworten Enteignung von Wohnungsunternehmen" [Berlin Greens advocate expropriation of housing companies]. Die Zeit. Archived from the original on 20 March 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  23. ^ Kiesel, Robert (14 March 2021). "Berliner Jusos wollen Wohnungskonzerne enteignen" [Berlin JUSOS want to expropriate housing corporations]. Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  24. ^ a b Tunk, Carola (26 February 2021). "Berlin: Müller gegen Enteignung von Wohnungskonzernen" [Berlin: Müller against expropriation of housing corporations]. Berliner Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  25. ^ Kiesel, Robert (16 February 2021). "Berliner Gewerkschaften unterstützen Volksbegehren zur Enteignung". Der Tagesspiegel Online (in German). Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  26. ^ "Berlin stimmt über "Enteignung" von Wohnungskonzernen ab". (in German). Archived from the original on 24 May 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  27. ^ Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen: Wie Vergesellschaftung gelingt – Zum Stand der Debatte, parthas, Berlin 2022, ISBN 978-3-86964-130-0.
  28. ^ Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen: Gemeingut Wohnen - Eine Anstalt öffentlichen Rechts für Berlins vergesellschaftete Wohnungsbestände , Berlin 2023.

External links[edit]