Who Owns the City?

Who owns my flat and who profits from my rent? Housing markets today are shaped by obscure business practices and property sales, which result in frequent and intransparent shifts in ownership.

The “Who Owns the City?” project aims to help uncover the business models and practices of housing companies in Berlin, and accompany tenants and initiatives in their search for their landlord and the answer to the question of how the financialized housing market affects their own doorstep.

Who are the true owners of land and buildings? This question arises when administrators and politicians decide to move on pre-emptive rights in areas under urban development protection and agricultural land, or negotiate with investors. More and more people in Berlin and other cities in Germany have faced rent increases of over 150 percent in the last ten years and are threatened by displacement, while the true owners of their buildings and their business practices remain unclear. The problem is particularly visible in Berlin, which recently has come to the attention of financial market-oriented housing companies, international real estate funds, and investors. Meanwhile, Berlin has become a symbol of political resistance from below and an inspiration for many other metropolises.

However, we still lack the necessary data to formulate political answers to the central question: “Who owns the city?” Only with the help of tenants’ initiatives and experts in analysing of international interdependencies was the city administration able to determine who owns more than 3,000 flats in Berlin. Still, tenants do not understand what is happening on their doorstep, who is investing in their apartment building, and who is profiting from their constantly rising rents. Money laundering and tax avoidance are insufficiently addressed due to a lack of usable information. The same is true for the institutional investors who are active in the housing market in search of investment objects for private pension provision. The research and analysis of the economic connections helps tenants, administration, politics, and the press understand how the global financial market works—from tax avoidance to tax evasion to money laundering—and how financialization increases inequalities through the excessive profit expectations of managers and investors.

The project “Who Owns the City?” aims to close these gaps and promote a well-founded discourse. To this end, the project supports activists, tenants, experts, and initiatives in their search for the true owners of real estate and land.

Project management: Christoph Trautvetter
RLS-Cities Project “Who Owns the City?”
Funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Who Owns the City?





Role Details
Senior Fellow for Housing and Urban Policy/Hermann-Henselmann-Stiftung Stefan Thimmel
Email: stefan.thimmel@rosalux.org
Phone: +49 30 44310434
Room: 6.07
Education Coordinator Housing and Urban Policy Anastasia Blinzov
Email: Anastasia.Blinzov@rosalux.org
Phone: +49 30 44310 148
Room: 5,05