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Head of Berlin Green Party Advocates Expropriation of Large Housing Companies by David Boos

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Head of Berlin Green Party Advocates Expropriation of Large Housing Companies

As in most major cities in Europe, living space in Berlin is scarce and expensive. This has led to petitions for expropriation of the largest housing companies in order to turn more apartments into public housing. After 57% of Berlin citizens voted in favor of such expropriation in a referendum last September, the head of Berlin’s Green Party, Werner Graf, is now moving towards a realization of this plan. “As a coalition, we have agreed on an expert commission to identify ways in which expropriation can be implemented,” Graf said. “It is not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘how.’” In doing so, Graf referred to the Green Party’s decision to use expropriation as a last resort to create a public housing market in service of the majority.

For Graf, the decisive issue is the legal question of how Article 15 of the basic law on expropriation has to be applied, and how compensation should be calculated “with a fair weighing of interests.” Currently, the expropriation of real estate companies with more than 3000 apartments in the capital of Germany is being debated. After majority support for expropriation in the September 2021 referendum, the Senate appointed a commission of experts at the end of March to look into the issue and develop a recommendation for the implementation of this referendum. Graf referred to the duty of politics to “meet the vote of the people of Berlin for expropriation.”

However, there is not necessarily unity on this issue within the red-red-green coalition. While Die Linke already explicitly supported expropriation initiatives during the last election, which coincided with the referendum, the Social Democratic Mayor Franziska Giffey spoke out against expropriation several times during the election campaign. If no agreement is reached within the coalition, Die Linke, according to a statement by state chairwoman Katina Schubert, might consider the possibility of leaving the coalition. The liberal FDP, whose parliamentary group leader Sebastian Czaja affirmed that they would “not shirk responsibility,” already expressed openness for coalition talks in such a case.

Last fall, before the referendum, several opposition parties had already spoken out against plans for expropriations. In a statement on the topic, the AfD announced that “not a single new apartment will be built as a result of the expropriation. The owners would have to be compensated expensively. That money would then be missing for much needed new construction projects. Nothing would change about the difficult situation in the housing market.”

The topic of expropriation plays a major role in the current political landscape of Germany. As The European Conservative reported a few weeks ago, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (The Greens) made people sit up and take notice with the appointment of the Federal Network Agency as trustee of Gazprom Germania. A short time later, an amendment of the Energy Security Act came up on the agenda, which is intended to facilitate seizure of critical infrastructure in the energy sector.

David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.