What is the Mietenvolksentscheid Berlin all about?
The Mietenvolksentscheid Berlin (Berlin Rent Referendum) is a public vote on a bill to ensure affordable rental housing in the city of Berlin.
The Housing Crisis in Berlin
There are 1.6 million rented homes in Berlin. Of these, around 300,000 belong to municipal housing companies owned by the city of Berlin. An additional 140,000 homes are in social housing programmes, of which 36,000 belong to the aforementioned municipal housing companies. In sum, 400,000 homes are directly or indirectly owned by the city of Berlin – that’s a quarter of all housing!
Last year alone, the population of Berlin grew by 40,000 and the demand for housing is exploding. Since 2009, rents in Berlin have risen by 46%. Evictions are also on the rise.
All political parties that have been a part of the government since the 1990s have contributed to this housing crisis: 220,000 publicly owned houses have been privatized, social housing subsidies have been slashed, and the creation of new affordable social housing has been put on hold. The municipal housing companies have increased rents as if they were private landlords, while the rents for units designated as social housing are now above the comparable average comparable rent and no longer within reach for people with lower incomes. And every year, a further 4,000 units of such housing are lost to the open market.
Symbolic measures and pronouncements cannot hide the fact that the Senate of Berlin is currently relying on private investors and profit-oriented housing companies to create new homes, instead of providing the necessary affordable accommodations as a service to the public interest. The Senate of Berlin is ignoring its constitutional mandate to provide people, particularly those with low incomes, with inexpensive places to live.
We need at least 120,000 more affordable homes in Berlin.
A Referendum on a New Housing Policy – What We Can Achieve Together
For these reasons, a wide variety of groups and individuals concerned with urban and housing policies came together to draft and pass a bill that will ensure affordable housing in Berlin: we are politically independent, self-organized, and based on grassroots participation.
In order for this bill to become a law, 3 steps need to occur :
- Collecting 20,000 valid signatures by May 2015 to petition for a referendum (Volksbegehren)
- Collecting 175,000 valid signatures from January to April 2016 to initiate a referendum (Volksentscheid)
- Voting yes on the referendum in the September 2016 federal? elections, parallel to the elections in Berlin.
We successfully passed the first step. Within less than 2 months we collected 50.000 signatures.
What will Change When our Bill is Passed?
Our bill will help to preserve and create affordable housing by:
- setting up a housing development fund to
- reduce rents in social housing based on income
- construct new housing with low rents
- modernize and maintain buildings with accessibility and energy-saving measures without drastic rent increases
- transforming the municipal housing companies into institutions governed by public law to
- implement tenant-friendly housing policies that are oriented towards the common good instead of profit-making
- encourage the representative participation of tenants in the public housing companies’ decision-making
- acquiring houses from the existing social housing stock which are currently in private hands
While the rent referendum is a first step towards a more social, democratic, and sustainable city, we won’t stop at this step. We want to stop our city from being sold off. We won’t let our city be controlled by politicians and investors any longer.
We, the people that live in Berlin, want to shape the future of this city. It is for this reason that we believe that everyone living in Berlin should have the right to vote on our referendum, not only those who have German citizenship.
Join In – Take Action – Collect Signatures – Speak with your Friends and Neighbours.