Housing rights groups and other progressive sections in the German State of Bavaria are upset with the German federal court’s dismissal of a citizen initiative demanding a referendum on a proposal to freeze rents in the State. On Wednesday, February 2, the court’s website published that the Second Senate of December 21, 2021 decided not to accept the petition for a referendum seeking “Six years rent freeze” in Bavaria as the demand was found unconstitutional. It also stated that the senate’s decision is no longer open for appeal.
A housing rights coalition formed by the Bavarian committees of Die Linke (The Left), Social Democratic Party (SPD), German Tenants’ Association and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) has been actively campaigning to conduct a referendum in the State calling for a law that would limit the rent level in 162 Bavarian municipalities with a tense housing market.
Most German cities are reeling under an acute housing crisis marked by higher rents and space crunch. Progressive and working class sections have formed tenants’ associations and have taken to the streets to demand rent caps and expropriation of the unused properties of realtors in the cities to solve the housing crisis.
In January 2020, the Berlin State parliament dominated by the Social Democrat-Die Linke-Green coalition (Red-Red-Green alliance) adopted a bill calling for freezing house rents in the city of Berlin at current rates till 2025. Germany’s constitutional court struck down the law stating that State governments can not impose their own law in the German capital while the federal government has its own regulations to control rents. In Bavaria, the housing rights coalition has collected more than 35,000 signatures on a petition demanding a referendum for a law to enforce a rent freeze for six years in the State. The petition was submitted to the Christian Social Union (CSU)-led Bavarian government which forwarded it to the constitutional court saying that the State has no legislative power to limit rent levels.
Titus Schüller of Die Linke told Junge Welt (JW), “in view of the ever-increasing rents, the decision is nevertheless bitter. The Federal Constitutional Court has confirmed its case law from last year in the matter of Berlin rent caps and unfortunately denied the States a legislative competence to protect tenants.”
“Nevertheless, it should be noted that we have succeeded in organizing great social support for the demand for a rent freeze. The trade unions and many social associations have clearly positioned themselves for this,” he said.