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Berlin's Horseshoe Estate, originally built as public housing, is now part-owned by landlord company Deutsche Wohnen.

Berlin's Horseshoe Estate, originally built as public housing, is now part-owned by landlord company Deutsche Wohnen.

Photographer: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg
CityLab
Housing

Berlin Referendum Could Determine the Future of the City’s Housing

In Sunday’s election, voters will decide whether the government should take control of apartments from the biggest landlords to protect affordable housing.

Berlin’s Horseshoe Estate is often cited as an example of just how good public housing can be. Built by the city in the 1920s and designed by famed architect Bruno Taut, the project’s modern conveniences, leafy setting and light-filled interiors were a huge improvement on the dark, cramped conditions its working-class residents had previously experienced. Today the UNESCO World Heritage-listed estate, and other Berlin complexes like it, are back in the news, lying at the center of a major debate about the future of affordable housing.

That’s because the formerly public Horseshoe Estate is now owned in part by Deutsche Wohnen SE. The largest private property company in Berlin and other large landlords are now being challenged by a campaign that would — if successful — drastically change the face of renting in Berlin.