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Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.
Banners on Berlin's Karl Marx Allee protest the sale of apartments to Real Estate company Deutsche Wohnen
Banners on Berlin's Karl Marx Allee protest the sale of apartments to Real Estate company Deutsche WohnenJoachim Hermann/Reuters

As Berliners grow increasingly frustrated with rising rents, there’s a question making the rounds in local politics that could seriously shake things up: Should there be a limit to how much housing a landlord can own?

Following months of intense debate (and some action), the German capital is considering whether landlords with more than 3,000 units should be barred from operating in the city. Opinion polls show a majority of Berliners favor such a move, and activists are about to start preparations for a referendum on the subject. If voted through, the plan could give citizens the power to make Berlin’s biggest landlords break up their portfolios, in the hope that this could prevent galloping rent rises and provide tenants with better service.