A popular Berlin initiative began on Saturday a collection of signatures in order to achieve an expropriation of large German consortiums as a measure to stop the rise in rents in the German capital.
Under slogans such as "housing is one of human rights and not a commodity" or "against speculation and in defense of neighborhood culture", several thousand people gathered at emblematic Berlin Alexanderplatz to attend the demonstration with which began the collection of signatures.
The initiative will have to collect, in two stages, a total of 170,000 signatures of people with the right to vote in Berlin to force the regional government to call a citizen consultation.
In a first stage, with a maximum term of six months, it will have to reach 20,000 signatures and the organizers consider that this will happen soon.
"Today we will have a significant number of signatures," spokesman for the initiative, Helge Peters, told EFE, while the demonstrators gathered at the emblematic Alexanderplatz.
Then the initiative will have four more months to reach 170,000 signatures and force the referendum
If the consultation were successful, the expropriations would not automatically take place, but the Berlin executive would be asked to submit a bill to the regional parliament.
However, the Government can refuse to do so, citing legal or financial reasons. Also, before the consultation, you can present an alternative proposal to the voters.
"We rely on article 15 of the constitution that allows the socialization of real estate, natural resources and means of production," explained Peters.
The promoters of the initiative consider that the compensation that would have to be paid for the expropriations would cost between 7,000 and 14,000 million euros.
The head of Public Works and Housing in the regional government, Katrin Lampscher, considers instead that costs can reach up to 36,000 million.
In any case, what started as a local Berlin initiative, and focused mainly on the resistance of a group of tenants against rent increases by the Deutsches Wohnen consortium, owner of 111,000 homes in Berlin, has become a national discussion topic.
Thus, for example, the Liberal Party (FDP) is willing to eliminate article 15 of the German constitution.
"Article 15 is to the constitution what the appendix to the human body is, but it is useless and it can be a source of infections," said the secretary of organization of the FDP parliamentary group. Marco Buschmann.
"There are parties that behave as if they were subsidiaries of the real estate lobby," said the organizer of the initiative, Rouzbeh Taheri, before a group of journalists before the demonstration began.
Article 15, on which the initiative is based and which the FDP proposes to abolish – for which it would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority – has never been applied in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Within the regional parliament of Berlin, the opposition parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the FDP and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) group are opposed to an expropriation plan.
Of the three parties that make up the regional government, only La Izquierda has been favorable to the initiative while Los Verdes will take the position in May and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the regional congress of the group in the fall.
At the national level, the presidents of the two major parties have demonstrated against possible expropriations.
"I understand the anger against the consortiums that want to squeeze every last euro from the tenants, but the expropriations would last for years and would not create a single house," said SPD president Andrea Nahles.
"The expropriations are not the solution," said the president of the CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Critics of the initiative argue that the expropriations would not help stop the rise in rents and that the appropriate formula would be to encourage housing construction so there would be more supply.
Although Berlin is not the city with the most expensive rents in Germany – in Munich and Frankfurt, for example, they are clearly above – but it is where most have risen in recent years.