Freiburg is a town in the southwest corner of Germany, in the State of Baden-Württemberg, with a population of 210,000. The mayor expected to get 510 million Euro in the sale, money that he wanted to use for paying off municipal debts. He wanted to copy what had taken place some months before in Dresden, when the city sold 48,000 flats, to pay off municipal debts, to the international investor Fortress.
Facts speak for themselves, but some lobbying is necessary. The tenants association in Regio-Freiburg e.V. wrote a letter to the mayor in which we pointed out the major risks of such a sale. Freiburg has a very different housing market compared to Dresden. Dresden municipal houses have many vacancies, but in Freiburg, there are hardly any empty flats at all.
A meeting was arranged with Mayor Salomon, together with Mrs. Anke Fuchs, Dr. Franz-Georg Rips, Chairwoman and Director respectively of the German Tenant Association, and the chief of the local tenants association in Freiburg Mr. Manfred Wolf. A short time after this meeting, Mr. Salomon told us that he had changed his mind after hearing our arguments and that he now wanted to keep the municipal housing stock, but that it was now up to the politicians of Freiburg to decide.
Tenants Change the Predestined Path
Our tenant association decided to start a campaign, an initiative, which we named “Housing is a Human Right, “with the purpose of a referendum, for which we needed 15,000 signatures. We managed to get 28,000 signatures, and the city council had to agree to organize a referendum.
On 12 November 2006, the citizens of Freiburg went to cast their votes. The ballot read; “Do you want Freiburg to be the owner of the municipal housing company and of the municipal houses also in future?” About 40 percent of the citizens participated in the voting. The “Yes” alternative got 70,5 percent and only 29,5 percent voted “No.” For the voting to be applicabl