Beware the backlash as financiers muscle into rental property


BERLINERS, MORE than four-fifths of whom rent their homes, have an unusual opportunity on September 26th to vent their anger over the rising cost of housing. A referendum, on the same day as Germany’s national and municipal elections, will give them a say on whether or not the city should in effect “expropriate” some of Germany’s largest residential-property firms, affecting up to 240,000 homes. The vote is non-binding. But its impact on the housing market is already having an effect. On September 17th two giant property investment trusts, Vonovia and a firm it is targeting in a €19.1bn ($22.5 billion) takeover, Deutsche Wohnen, said they would sell almost 15,000 flats to the city for €2.5bn. They portrayed it as a friendly gesture. But it was also a thinly veiled attempt to stop being stripped of the keys to their own homes.

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