As the votes in the hotly contested “end of an era” German parliamentary elections are still being tallied, Berlin citizens have rallied to pass a game-changing affordable housing referendum. On Sunday, a nearly complete count reflected that 56.4 percent of voters backed a proposal for the capital’s regional government to expropriate housing units from large, corporate landlords—those who own at least 3,000 units—and socialize them. According to estimates, nearly a quarter of a million apartments in the city would fall under the non-binding measure. The move would radically change what has for many Berliners become an unaffordable real estate market.
The majority of the roughly 250,000 apartment units would be forcibly bought by the city from Deutsche Wohnen, the largest real estate company in Europe. The referendum comes after housing activists collected nearly 350,000 residents’ signatures to force a vote. Advocates have said the pressure from the looming referendum motivated Berlin’s government earlier this month to announce a deal buying and socializing nearly 15,000 apartments from corporate landlords.