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 (back to text)
[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 (back to text)
[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.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. (back to text)

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.