Transnationaler Widerstand gegen ein internationales Firmengeflecht

English version see below

Veröffentlicht in: Común #4 / Dez. 2020, S. 30 / 31

Mieter*innen organisieren sich gegen Immobilien-Spekulant »Akelius«

Eine Miete von 40 Euro pro Quadratmeter gibt es nicht? Doch – bei Akelius in Berlin. Das Geschäftsmodell von Akelius ist denkbar einfach: maximaler Profit durch maximale Wertsteigerung bei minimaler Investition. Die Abläufe sind an allen Standorten des Konzerns gleich: Häuser werden in angesagten westlichen Metropolen günstig eingekauft, der Auszug langjähriger Mieter*innen wird forciert, frei werdende Wohnungen werden luxusmodernisiert und die Mietpreise werden anschließend vervielfacht ohne sich an lokale Mietpreisregulierungen zu halten. Zum Abschluss werden die Mietshäuser in Eigentumswohnung umgewandelt und verkauft. Begleitet wird dieser Prozess durch vielfältige Steuersparmodelle, wie dem verzweigten Firmenkonstrukt mit Gesellschaften und privaten Stiftungen in den Steueroasen Zypern und Bahamas oder den Share Deals, bei denen die Grunderwerbssteuer “gespart“ wird, indem statt der Immobilien einfach Firmen-Anteile gekauft werden.1 Der Konzern veranschlagt selbst rund zehn Jahre für den Ablauf dieses Standard-Prozesses an den jeweiligen Standorten. Die UN hat in offiziellen Schreiben (Communications) an Akelius und an die Regierungen von Deutschland, Großbritannien und Kanada im Geschäftsgebaren von Akelius Verstöße gegen das Menschenrecht auf Wohnen nachgewiesen, diese kritisiert und Korrekturen angemahnt.

In Schweden, dem Sitz der Hauptfirma »Akelius Residential Property AB«, wurde der Konzern 1994 aktiv, international ab 2006. Einen Großteil seiner schwedischen Immobilien hat Akelius inzwischen bereits wieder verkauft. In den anderen europäischen Städten beginnt aktuell die letzte Phase der Verwertung: die Umwandlung in Eigentumswohnung mit anschließendem Verkauf. In Nordamerika baut der Konzern derweil seinen Bestand durch großangelegte Zukäufe noch aus.

Anfang 2018 gründeten Akelius-Mieter*innen in Berlin eine Vernetzung, um sich gemeinsam gegen Akelius zu wehren. Lokal gab es schon vorher pressewirksame Proteste der Bewohner*innen einzelner Häuser, wie zum Beispiel der Senior*innen vom Hansa Ufer 5. Das Anliegen der Vernetzung ist es, den Widerstand stadtweit und überregional zu bündeln und zu stärken, um die Vereinzelung von uns Mieter*innen aufzubrechen und zu überwinden. In Berlin besitzt Akelius aktuell etwa 900 Häuser mit rund 14.000 Wohnungen. Weltweit sind es um die 45.000 Wohnungen. Ende August 2020 hat der Konzern überraschend angekündigt, sein Geschäftsmodell zu ändern und zukünftig auf Luxusmodernisierungen im Altbau zu verzichten und nebenbei knapp ein Drittel seiner Angestellten zu entlassen. Begründet wird dies mit „die gute Zeiten sind vorbei“ und höheren Gewinnerwartungen durch den Ankauf von Neubau. Auch wenn sich an dem Profitstreben von Akelius nichts geändert hat, ist dies ein erster Erfolg unseres Mieter*innen-Widerstands und zunehmender Regulation durch die Politik.

Ein Vorteil für den organisierten Mieter*innen-Widerstand ist die Berechenbarkeit der standardisierten Verwertungsabläufe bei Akelius. Anhand der Erfahrungen aus Schweden kann frühzeitig abgelesen werden, was Mieter*innen auch anderswo erwartet. Voraussetzung ist jedoch, sich mit diesen Erfahrungen genauer auseinanderzusetzen. Zu diesem Zweck hat die Vernetzung der Akelius-Mieter*innen im Sommer 2019 das Dossier »Akelius in Berlin 2018/2019« veröffentlicht. Daten, Informationen, Erfahrungen und Handlungsoptionen wurden ein Jahr lang zusammengetragen, analysiert und bewertet. Dabei zeigte sich auch, dass nur die transnationale Vernetzung der Mieter*innen dem Geschäftsmodell von Akelius einen wirksamen Widerstand entgegenhalten kann. Denn es ist nicht Ziel, Akelius an einem Standort zu schwächen und die schädlichen Auswirkungen der Geschäftspraxis den Mieter*innen in anderen Städten zu überlassen oder sie ihnen gar zu übertragen. Ebenso ist es nicht Ziel, nur Altmieter*innen zu unterstützen, sondern auch die oftmals international neu zugezogenen Neumieter*innen. Der transnationale Widerstand organisiert sich daher auf zwei Ebenen: der lokalen und der überregionalen.

In Berlin befindet sich rund ein Drittel aller Akelius-Wohnungen weltweit. Knapp die Hälfte davon wurde inzwischen luxusmodernisiert und dauerhaft vom bezahlbaren ins Hochpreissegment verschoben, inklusive Mieter*innenaustausch und massiver Mietpreissteigerung. Das bedeutet, dass in knapp jeder zweiten Berliner Akelius-Wohnung Mieter*innen wohnen, die deutlich mehr Miete zahlen, als nach Mietspiegel vorgesehen. Da den alteingesessenen Mieter*innen mit noch moderaten Mieten bewusst ist, dass ihre Verträge dadurch immer stärker unter Druck geraten, sind sie den Neumieter*innen häufig skeptisch gegenüber eingestellt. Denn zum einen steigt durch die massiv erhöhte Miete bei den Neuvermietungen der Mietspiegel, der im Rückschluss die Erhöhung der eigenen Miete befördert, und zum zweiten nimmt der Druck seitens Akelius zu, die letzten günstigen Mietverträge los zu werden. Hinzu kommt, dass viele der Neumieter*innen international Zugezogene sind, so dass die Kontaktaufnahme zwischen den alten und neuen Nachbar*innen aufgrund von Sprachbarrieren zusätzlich erschwert wird. Von dieser Spaltung profitiert Akelius, zumal die internationalen Mieter*innen darauf angewiesen sind, von Nachbar*innen auf ihre Rechte als Mieter*innen aufmerksam gemacht und an Beratungsstellen und Anwält*innen vermittelt zu werden. Ein Ansatz der Vernetzung der Akelius-Mieter*innen ist es daher, diese Spaltung zu überwinden und sowohl die alteingesessenen als auch die neuen Mieter*innen in einen gemeinsamen Widerstand gegen Akelius zusammen zu bringen. Warum? Das Geschäftsmodell von Akelius bricht zusammen, wenn die Neumieter*innen nicht die exorbitant hohen Mieten zahlen. Um jedoch diese Neumieten absenken und an den Mietspiegel anpassen zu können, müssen die neuen Mieter*innen das Wissen darum haben und aktiv werden. Wir bemühen uns daher dieses Wissen zu verbreiten und Handlungsmöglichkeiten aufzuzeigen und arbeiten sowohl bei Infomaterial und Stellungnahmen als auch auf Versammlungen mit Übersetzungen. Wenn Mieter*innen die hohen Akelius-Mieten mit Verweis auf die Mietpreisbremse in Frage stellten, wurde die Miete schon mehrfach bis zu 22 Prozent gesenkt. Außerdem betrifft alle Mieter*innen im gleichen Maße die Verdrängungsgefahr durch die abschließende Umwandlung in Eigentumswohnungen. Von diesem letzten Verwertungsschritt könnte Akelius ohne Probleme oder Verzögerungen profitieren, wenn der Konzern vorher schon viele zahlungskräftige Mieter*innen angesiedelt hätte und an diese verkaufen würde. Dämpfende Regularien wären dann nämlich selbst in Milieuschutzgebieten ausgehebelt. Doch das Gegenteil ist oft der Fall. Viele der Neumieter*innen können sich die überteuerten Akelius-Mieten kaum oder nur durch große Einschränkungen „leisten“.

Der gemeinsame transnationale Widerstand auf überregionaler Ebene umfasst andere Schwerpunkte. In erster Linie steht der Austausch von Informationen und unseren jeweiligen lokalen Erfahrungen. Was Akelius in Stockholm schon durchexerziert hat, erwartet uns aktuell in Berlin. Was wir gerade in Berlin, London und Paris erleben, erwartet die Mieter*innen in Kanada und den USA. Die Ausrichtung auf das kommende Geschäftsgebaren von Akelius lässt uns nicht unvorbereitet ins offene Messer laufen. Wir können uns frühzeitig Bündnispartner*innen suchen, die öffentliche Diskussion auf bestimmte Probleme lenken und politische Lösungsvorschläge entwickeln. Gleichzeitig dient die überregionale und transnationale Vernetzung der eigenen lokalen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. Denn wenn dieselben Probleme aus mehreren Städten weltweit skandalisiert werden, wenn die UN öffentlich die gleiche menschenverachtende Geschäftspraxis von Akelius in verschiedenen Ländern anprangert und wenn Mieter*innen sich überregional zusammentun, erhöht das die Sichtbarkeit unseres Protestes und die Glaubwürdigkeit unserer Kritik. Perspektivisch sind sogar gemeinsame, transnational koordinierte Aktionen denkbar. Die Veröffentlichung der gemeinsamen Erklärung zu den oben erwähnten Schreiben der UN, war eine erste dieser möglichen gemeinsamen Aktionen. Ein Vorschlag aus Toronto für eine weitere Aktion aller Akelius-Mieter*innen aus den verschiedene Städten wird momentan lokal diskutiert.

Letztlich geht es darum, das Menschenrecht auf Wohnen durchzusetzen. Es gilt, den lokalen Politiker*innen klar zu machen, dass auch in westlichen Industriestaaten Menschenrechte verletzt werden, wenn mit Wohnraum spekuliert wird. Die transnationale Vernetzung der Akelius-Mieter*innen macht deutlich, dass das ein globales Problem ist. Und sie macht deutlich, dass wir radikale Lösungen brauchen, wie die Enteignung von Akelius, Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Wir müssen das Spekulieren mit Wohnraum ein für alle Male beenden. Wir brauchen das Bewusstsein und die legislativen Mittel, damit das Recht auf Wohnen nicht von den Preisen an der Börse diktiert wird, nach dem Motto: Wer es sich finanziell leisten kann, darf wohnen, wo und wie er*sie das möchte, wer es sich nicht leisten kann, muss halt ausweichen. Nein! Es gibt das Menschenrecht auf Wohnen und es gilt dieses einzufordern. Die transnationale Zusammenarbeit der Mieter*innen stärkt diesen Kampf und inspiriert in den Mitteln es zu erkämpfen.

Weitere Infos (inkl. der im Text genannten Papiere, Daten und Veröffentlichungen): https://akelius-vernetzung.de


1 Anfang September 2020 hat die Bundestagesabgeordnete Cansel Kiziltepe (SPD) Akelius wegen des Verdachts auf illegale Steuervermeidung durch zweifelhafte Share Deals bei der Steuerfahndung angezeigt. https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/cansel-kiziltepe-spd-abgeordnete-zeigt-berliner-immobilieninvestor-an-a-b32e9fd4-cce3-4f29-b63a-69fb94f9592a



English version

German version published in: Común #4 / Dez. 2020, pp. 30 / 31

Transnational Resistance Against International Corporate Network

Tenants Organize Against Real Estate Speculator “Akelius”

Rent of 40 euros per square meter, not possible! Yes, it is—from Akelius in Berlin. Akelius’ business model is very simple: maximum profit through maximum increase in value, with minimal investment. The process is the same at all the company’s locations: in trendy Western cities properties are bought at low prices, long-time tenants are pushed out, the apartments are then luxuriously modernized, and the rent is then increased without adhering to local rent regulations. Finally, the apartment buildings are converted into condominiums and sold. This process includes a variety of tax saving schemes, such as a multi-branched corporate structure with companies and private foundations in the tax havens of Cyprus and the Bahamas, or share deals in which property transfer taxes are „avoided“ by simply buying shares in the company instead of real estate.1 The Group itself estimates that this standard process—from purchase to sale—takes around ten years at each respective location. In official letters (communications) to Akelius and to the governments of Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada, the UN has identified Akelius‘ business practices as in violation of the human right to housing, thereby criticizing the company and calling for corrective action.

The group became active in Sweden in 1994, where the main company „Akelius Residential Property AB“ is based, and from 2006 onwards they became active internationally. In the meantime, Akelius has already sold a large proportion of its Swedish properties. In other European cities, the final phase of this profit driven strategy—the conversion into condominiums and their subsequent sale—is currently underway. In North America, the company is still expanding its portfolio through large-scale acquisitions.

At the beginning of 2018, Akelius tenants in Berlin started a network to jointly defend themselves against Akelius. Locally, the press had already reported on protests by residents of individual buildings, such as the senior citizens of Hansa Ufer 5. The objective of the network is to combine and strengthen resistance citywide and nationwide as well as to prevent and overcome our isolation as tenants. In Berlin, Akelius currently owns about 900 houses with around 14,000 apartments—worldwide, around 45,000 apartments. At the end of August 2020, the group surprisingly announced that it would change its business model and, in the future, abandon the luxury modernization of old buildings, while also laying off almost a third of its employees. „The good times are over“ was their justification as well as the expectation that the purchase of new buildings would generate higher profits. Even if Akelius hasn’t changed in their pursuit of profit, this was the first success for our tenant resistance and for the increased regulation by politics.

The predictability of Akelius’s basic strategy for generating profit is an advantage to tenants organizing resistance. Based on experiences from Sweden, it is possible to understand at an early stage what tenants should expect elsewhere. It is necessary, however, to take a closer look at these experiences. To this end, the Network of Akelius Tenants published the dossier „Akelius in Berlin 2018/2019“ in summer 2019. For a year, data, information, experiences, and options for action were compiled, analyzed, and evaluated. In the process, it also became apparent that only a transnational network of tenants can offer effective resistance to the Akelius business model. Our aim is not to weaken Akelius in one location and to let other tenants in other cities feel the harmful effects of its business practices, nor merely to communicate it to others. Likewise, the goal is not to support only long-term tenants, but also to support new tenants, many of which are new and international. Transnational resistance is therefore organized on two levels: the local and the transregional.

About one-third of all Akelius apartments worldwide are located in Berlin. Just under half of these have received luxury modernizations and have been permanently shifted from the affordable to the high-price bracket, including the replacement of tenants and massive rent increases. This means that almost every other tenant living in an Akelius apartment in Berlin is paying significantly more rent than the rent index stipulates. Because long-established tenants with still moderate rents are aware that their contracts are coming under increasing pressure, they are often skeptical of the new tenants. This is because, on the one hand, the massive increase in rents for new tenants raises the rent index, which in turn encourages an increase for everyone, and, secondly, because Akelius is then under increasing pressure to get rid of the remaining leases that are reasonable. In addition, many of the new tenants are international, which, due to language barriers, makes it more difficult to develop contact between the old and new neighbors. Akelius benefits from this division, especially because the international tenants depend on their neighbors to learn about their rights as tenants and to find consultation centers and lawyers. Therefore, one of the Akelius Tenants Network’s approaches is to overcome this division and to unite both the old and the new tenants in collective resistance against Akelius. Why? Akelius‘ business model will collapse if new tenants do not pay the exorbitantly high rents. However, in order to be able to lower these new rents and bring them in line with the rent index, the new tenants must know about this and become active. We therefore strive to spread this knowledge and to point out possibilities for action. We work both with information material and statements, as well as through meetings and translations. On multiple occasions, tenants have questioned the high Akelius rents by referencing the rent moratorium, thereby reducing the rent by up to 22 percent. In addition, the eventual conversion into condominiums presents the same risk of displacement to all tenants. By already collecting many tenants who are able to afford the properties, Akelius could profit from this last stage in their profit strategy without any problems or delays, merely by selling them the properties. The dampening effects of regulations would then be nullified, even in those areas designated for special protection. But the opposite is often the case. Many of the new tenants can hardly „afford“ the overpriced Akelius rents, or can only do so through considerable sacrifices.

Collective transnational resistance on a transregional level involves other focal points. First and foremost, is the exchange of information and our respective local experiences. What Akelius has already done in Stockholm is currently awaiting us in Berlin. What we are currently experiencing in Berlin, London, and Paris is what awaits tenants in Canada and the USA. We will not walk unprepared into the trap of Akelius‘ future business practices. We can look for alliance partners early on, focus the public debate on specific problems, and develop political solutions. At the same time, transregional and transnational networking benefits our own local public relations work. That is, if the same problems from multiple cities around the world generate a scandal, and if Akelius is publicly denounces by the UN for the same inhumane business practices in different countries, and if tenants join forces on a transregional level, the visibility of our protest and the credibility of our criticism will increase. Even collective, transnationally coordinated actions are a conceivable prospect. The publication of a joint statement about the above-mentioned UN letter was the first of these possible joint actions. A proposal from Toronto is currently being discussed locally for further actions by all Akelius tenants from the different cities.

Ultimately, it is about enforcing the human right to housing. It is important to make clear to local politicians that human rights are also violated in Western industrialized countries when housing is used for speculation. The Transnational Network of Akelius Tenants makes it clear that this is a global problem. And it is clear that we need radical solutions, like the expropriation of Akelius, Deutsche Wohnen & Co. We must, once and for all, end speculation with housing. We need the awareness and the legislative means to ensure that the right to housing is not dictated by prices on the stock exchange, according to the motto: those who can afford it financially, may live where and how they want, those who cannot afford it, must simply move out. No! There is a human right to housing and it is important to demand it. The transnational cooperation of tenants strengthens this struggle and inspires the means to fight for it.

Further information (including the papers, data, and publications mentioned in the text): https://akeliusvernetzung.de


1 At the beginning of September 2020, Cansel Kiziltepe (SPD), a member of the German Bundestag, reported Akelius to the tax authorities on suspicion of illegal tax avoidance through dubious share deals. https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/cansel-kiziltepe-spd-abgeordnete-zeigt-berliner-immobilieninvestoran-a-b32e9fd4-cce3-4f29-b63a-69fb94f9592a

International Joint Statement by Akelius Tenants

PRESS RELEASE:
Stop Akelius Worldwide tenants coalition confirms serious disregard of human rights raised by UN Special Rapporteur, and calls for action.

Joint Statement with original layout (PDF)

Disclaimer: Leilani Farha’s tenure as UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Housing ended on April 30, 2020. The Communications mentioned below were written and sent before April 30, during her tenure. Since May 1, 2020, Leilani Farha works with the organization „Make the Shift“. The new Special Rapporteur for the Right to Housing since May 1, 2020, is Balakrishnan Rajagopal.

Berlin, Hamburg, London, Paris, Toronto
June 29, 2020

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, has raised serious human rights concerns regarding the business model and business practice of Akelius Residential, one of the world’s largest housing corporations. [1] Leilani Farha has sent an official UN Communication to Akelius and to the governments of Canada, Germany and the UK, where Akelius operates [2].

We, as Akelius tenants, can fully confirm the Human Rights abuses reported in the UN Communication from our own experiences in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Paris and Toronto. Through this joint statement, we reaffirm the criticism of the Akelius business model and business practice, voiced by the UN.

Our apartments are our most important retreats, especially in a time of crisis. However, unfortunately, we share the common experience across all cities that Akelius systematically disregards our needs and our rights. Akelius treats their tenants solely as a source for generating maximum profit rather than as humans with a basic need for decent and affordable housing. In consequence, we are exposed to high stress through unnecessary but massive, long-term renovations, burdened with outrageous costs through aggressive rent maximization. We are forced out of our homes through renoviction and degraded living conditions, ignored complaints and delayed action to complaints, threatened and forced eviction, rent maximization, and the transformation of rental apartments into condominiums and luxury units.

When Akelius buys a new building, is when problems begin for tenants. Akelius enforces aggressive rent maximization exploiting legal loopholes, pushing apartments into the high price range. While minimizing costs through limited service and upkeep, Akelius undertakes unnecessary excessive renovations as soon as tenants leave. This subjects us to constant construction noise, water and heating outages, debris and dusty air, risking our health and our safety. In addition to the social impact, this wasting of resources has a considerable ecological impact on the environment. Once the transformation of a house into high-price apartments is finished, Akelius converts rented flats into condominiums.

The sole purpose of Akelius business strategy is the maximization of private profits, no matter the costs to tenants and to cities. Akelius‘ business model is a major vehicle for violent gentrification and displacement of people. The fallout has to be paid by the cities where Akelius operates: Homelessness when people are forced out of their homes, high vacancy rates but less housing availability because apartments are stuck in renovation backlogs lasting months, the destruction of the social fabric of our communities when tenants are forced to move away from their neighborhood because prices have spiked. Additionally, the high rents forced on tenants drain money away from local businesses and companies into the accounts of obscure private foundations located in the Bahamas for tax avoidance [3].

We tenants keep our cities running. We live and work in our cities and pay taxes. We spend money in our community and support local economies. By developing relationships with our neighbors, we help make the social fabric which keeps our community together. Instead of Akelius‘ destructive business practices we need reasonable repairs and essential maintenance for our apartments. We need a housing policy preserving affordable housing, respecting tenants‘ rights and maintaining grown structures of our tenants‘ neighborhoods.

We firmly remind Akelius: Housing is not a commodity – housing is a Human Right. As a multinational company in housing, Akelius has a special responsibility of upholding the basic human right to housing. However, due to the disregard of the human rights issues raised by the UN Special Rapporteur, by tenants and by tenants‘ organizations, and due to our own experiences, we say that Akelius is not fit to take care of housing.

We are calling to those in power – to governments, to politicians, and to lawmakers – TO PUT A STOP TO THIS. We are calling to businesses, to companies, and to contractors, to stop providing goods and services to Akelius, and to investors, to reconsider Akelius, until they respect the Human Right to Housing. We are calling to each and every Akelius employee, to search their moral conscience, and to act ethically, lawfully, and humanely with tenants, prioritizing Housing as a Human Right, over profit. We are calling to the media, to journalists, and to investigators, to expose Akelius and their business practice. Finally, we are calling to our neighbors, to our communities, and to fellow tenants, to speak to your local government representative about Akelius. Let’s stand together and stop Akelius with their business model of private profit maximization. Let’s stand together and reclaim housing as a human right. Let’s stand together and reclaim our cities for each and for all!

We demand:

  • Stop unnecessary renovations, do essential and ecologically friendly repairs instead!
  • Stop aggressive rent maximization – especially in times of crisis!
  • Stop forcing tenants out of their homes!
  • Stop financial speculation with our basic need for affordable housing!
  • Stop Akelius – Expropriate!
  • Preserve affordable housing!
  • Respect the Human Right to Housing!
  • Socialize housing!

Stop Akelius Worldwide is an international coalition of Akelius Residential tenants, providing mutual support, advice and assistance between Akelius tenants in cities around the world. We also research, share and publicize information on Akelius and their business practice and operations.  We use our experiences, knowledge and activism together as Akelius tenants, to stand up for our rights and campaign for housing reforms. 

Signatures

London Akelius Tenants

Paris Akelius tenant
Contact: frenchakeliustenants@gmail.com

Akelius Canada Toronto Tenants
Web: https://akeliuscanadatorontotenants.blogspot.com/

Toronto Akelius Tenants Network
Web: https://www.akeliustenants.org/
Contact: akelius.tenants.network@gmail.com

Akelius Mieter*innen Hamburg
Contact: info@rechtaufstadt.net

Berlin Akelius Tenants Network
Web: https://stoppakelius.de
Twitter: @stoppakeliusb
Contact (press): presse@stoppakelius.de
Contact (tenants): kontakt@stoppakelius.de

Press Coverage

UN-Sonderberichterstatterin wirft Akelius Menschenrechtsverletzung vor, MieterEcho online, 8.7.2020, https://www.bmgev.de/mieterecho/mieterecho-online/akelius-un-bericht/
UN releases human rights complaints against Toronto apartment owner, Now Toronto, 6.7.2020, https://nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/un-releases-human-rights-complaints-against-toronto-apartment-owner/
Kampf um Wohnraum ist international, Neues Deutschland, 29.6.2020, https://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/1138484.akelius-kampf-um-wohnraum-ist-international.html

Footnotes

[1] Leilani Farha’s regular tenure as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing has ended on April 30, 2020. The communications were sent in April. Following official UN guidelines, the publication of the communications had to be postponed. This is the press release related to the Communications, issued on April 29, 2020: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25845&LangID=E
[2] Communication to Akelius: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25199. Communication to the governments of Canada, Germany and the UK: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TmSearch/SearchCode?code=DEU%201/2020;%20CAN%201/2020;%20GBR%201/2020
[3] For details on the Akelius web of companies see a Handout made by the Berlin Network of Akelius Tenants: https://stoppakelius.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Akelius_in_Berlin.english-1.pdf, their dossier on Akelius https://stoppakelius.de/material/dossier,  the research by Akelius tenants in Toronto: https://akeliuscanadatorontotenants.blogspot.com/p/pictures.html and by tenants groups in Toronto: https://www.landlordsoftoronto.com/akelius.

Update June 29: Leilani Farha’s tenure as Special Rapporteur ended on April 30, 2020. We have inserted this information into the text (Footnote 1 and Disclaimer).

Update July 1: We have added the Toronto Akelius Tenants Network to the list of signatures.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing says Akelius disregards human rights

[05.05.2020] Press Release

deutsche Fassung / german version

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, has issued serious accusations against Akelius in a press release on April 29, 2020. According to the statement, Akelius’s business model disregards human rights through the systematic reduction of affordable and reliable housing. In several cases, Akelius’s business practice has resulted in hundreds of tenants living on major construction sites for months, sometimes without heating and water supply for weeks, the statement says.

From the press release of the UN:

„Farha said she had heard of many cases where Akelius utilises an aggressive business model which wreaks havoc with people’s lives and has told the company its operations in the UK, Canada and Germany are inconsistent with international human rights law on the right to adequate housing. […] ‚Although it does a lot for charity, Akelius’s business model is trampling on the human rights of its tenants, decreasing housing habitability, affordability and security of tenure‘, Farha said.“

Currently, Berlin accounts for roughly one third of Akelius’s total portfolio. The group owns 45,000 apartments representing a fair value of 12 billion euros, with more than 14,000 located in Berlin worth 3.3 billion euros. This makes Berlin by far the most important location for the group. We consider it a scandal that an international company that is engaged in this way in Berlin „is trampling on the human rights of its tenants“ (Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing).

Farha concludes her statement by calling on Akelius to set up the necessary business procedures and personnel for „human rights due diligence“.

We fully support this call on Akelius. We also think that the responsibility to act on this human rights crisis caused by Akelius and similar companies lies with all actors associated with housing: The associations of real estate companies, tenants‘ associations, government authorities and politicians need to develop a firm and determined response. International companies that conduct a significant portion of their business in Germany and Europe must be controlled and regulated so that a harmful business model and business practice as applied by Akelius is a) recognized and b) prevented.

An appeal to Akelius to set up a due diligence system for the observance of human rights needs to be supported by a larger framework of regulatory and political measures. Human rights are a fundamental part of our societies. Controlling compliance with human rights standards cannot be left to a company whose business model already „tramples on human rights“. We need far-reaching regulation to ensure that housing is not abused for radical profit maximization that systematically destroys affordabel housing and thus the social fabrics of our cities. Instead of treating housing as a means for short-term private profit maximization, we need to treat housing as a public good and focus on the welfare of all. Housing is not a commodity. Housing is a human right. A company like Akelius, whose business model disregards human rights, is obviously lacking the most basic notion of responsibility towards tenants and towards society. From this point of view, Akelius themselves have forfeited their right to manage housing in any way.

In return, it becomes a duty for all social and political actors to protect housing and tenants from Akelius and similar corporations. The Berlin rent cap is an important first step, which will probably serve as a blueprint for necessary regulation also in other regions in the wake of the Corona crisis. However, the Berlin rent cap is only set for five years. It is not yet a permanent solution. But housing cannot and must not remain in the hands of ruthless companies like Akelius. In order to guarantee the observance of human rights and to build up a social and sustainable housing industry in the long run, all houses must be transferred into common property controlled by tenants themselves. We need to expropriate Akelius & Co and socialize housing.

UN press statement: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25845&LangID=E

International Media Coverage

Canadian TV and radio station CBC on Akelius in Toronto and how Akelius disregards human rights

The media coverage section will be updated regularly. Please send us any articles that haven’t been listed here.