According to the people's initiative "Hamburg Expropriated", 18,231 signatures were handed over to the Senate on Monday. If at least 10,000 valid votes for the cause of the popular initiative come together after the count by the city, it is considered successful. Then the citizens have to deal with the expropriation law demanded by the initiative.
"Hamburg expropriated" was founded in September 2021 immediately after the successful referendum on the expropriation of large housing companies in Berlin. The aim of the initiators is the "expropriation and socialization" of large, "profit-oriented housing companies" with more than 500 apartments.
"The frustration and desperation about Hamburg's housing policy is huge, we felt it everywhere when collecting," said Marie Kleinert, describing the experiences of "Hamburg expropriated" in a statement. Affordable housing is hard to find for people on low incomes. According to Kleinert, the housing companies could enforce almost any rent level and gag contracts.
The housing policy of the Hamburg Senate, which has focused on new construction and cooperation with the corporations, is in ruins. Big companies are unreliable. "They just don't build, and certainly not affordable living space." The required number of these cannot be created by new construction, "but only by reducing rents in existing buildings."
The initiative is hoping for exactly such rent reductions if the apartments of the independent housing associations are transferred to a public-law institution in the city as required. The municipal housing company Saga and cooperatives would be exempt from the expropriation.
The basis for the expropriation would be Article 15 of the Basic Law, which offers the possibility of socializing land and property. The housing associations that currently own the rental apartments would have to be compensated. According to the initiators, the compensation could be paid in the form of bonds, the annual repayment installments of which would be financed from the rental income. The costs for the city remained manageable, so the reasoning.
Even if the counting will take a few more weeks, congratulations were given to the initiators on Monday. These came from the rent policy spokeswoman for the left, Heide Sudmann. With hundreds of thousands of tenants in Hamburg, the need and indignation is growing in view of the ever-increasing housing costs, said Sudmann.
The initiative sent out the signal to all of them that they were not at the mercy of the companies. Your group will support the popular initiative. The expropriation commission chaired by Herta Däubler-Gmelin (SPD) in Berlin recently confirmed that the state of Berlin can constitutionally enforce an expropriation or socialization of large housing companies. "Hamburg can do that too," said Sudmann.
So far, the left in Hamburg is the only one of the six parliamentary groups that openly supports the issue of "Hamburg expropriated".
If the citizenry does not respond to the initiative's demands within four months, the initiators can go one step further and apply for a referendum. So far only the left in the citizenship has signaled their support for the demands of the initiative.
The CDU publicly rejected the goals of the initiative on Monday. "Housing construction in Hamburg has huge problems," said the urban development expert for the parliamentary group, Anke Frieling. Exploding construction costs, high interest rates, inflation, more and more regulations and the new land policy of the SPD and the Greens ensured that new housing construction in Hamburg came to a virtual standstill.
However, the "Hamburg expropriated" initiative would exacerbate the problem of too few apartments. Hamburg needs more housing and that as soon as possible. "The right incentives have to be set for this and, above all, hurdles have to be removed."
If the citizens do not respond to the demands of the initiative within four months, they can start the second stage on the way to a referendum and strive for a referendum. One is well prepared for a "no" from the citizenry, said initiative spokesman Hanno Hinrichs. In view of the mood among Hamburg's tenants, there is "no doubt that a referendum will be successful".
In this second stage, 60,000 votes must come together within three weeks. The city council would then have four months to approve the project. If that doesn't happen, the initiators could call for a referendum in which all Hamburg residents can vote directly on the project.
The last referendum was in 2013. At that time, the Hamburg voters voted for the city to take over the energy grids.
Parallel to the popular initiative "Hamburg Expropriated", there are currently two other initiatives in Hamburg. One of them would like to ban gender in authorities and schools, the other calls for a largely advertising-free Hamburg. The initiative against gender is aiming for a referendum on the day of the next general election. This will take place in early 2025.