Insane rents drive desperate Germans to referendum

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Once the capital of affordable rents, prices have increased in Berlin to a point where in some areas even high earners cannot afford to keep pace.

Week after week new stories emerge about rising competition for affordable apartments, with open viewings frequently attracting more than 100 hopeful tenants.

The wave of gentrification and rising rents is provoking rising anger and leading some to even ponder radical solutions like expropriating housing from institutional landlords.

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Tens of thousands of people are poised to join marches against “rental insanity” (Mietwahnsinn) on Saturday in cities like Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt.

The problem is most acute in the capital, where rents have doubled over the past decade, as Germany’s booming job market attracts an influx of workers, putting pressure on the housing market.

But a popular backlash appears to be growing, and organisers of an initiative to requisition housing from real estate groups will on Saturday begin collecting signatures in their push for a referendum on the issue in Berlin.

The campaign’s spokesman Rouzbeh Taheri said the movement had radicalized as government measures to cool the property market have failed to work.

“Many say this is a type of class struggle. Yes that’s what it is. But we did not start it. We’re taking defensive measures against the class struggler from the top who has for years been fighting against tenants.”

The “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” initiative, named after the biggest private player in Berlin, targets companies with more than 3,000 apartments in their portfolios.

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