Authorities in Hamburg, Germany, have confiscated six residential units near the city center and are in the process of renovating the properties. When the properties are finished, they will be doled out to tenants chosen by city officials.
The move in unprecedented, reports Gatestone Institute:
Authorities in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, have begun confiscating private dwellings to ease a housing shortage — one that has been acutely exacerbated by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than two million migrants into the country in recent years.
City officials have been seizing commercial properties and converting them into migrant shelters since late 2015, when Merkel opened German borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Now, however, the city is expropriating residential property units owned by private citizens.
In an unprecedented move, Hamburg authorities recently confiscated six residential units in the Hamm district near the city center. The units, which are owned by a private landlord, are in need of repair and have been vacant since 2012. A trustee appointed by the city is now renovating the properties and will rent them — against the will of the owner — to tenants chosen by the city. District spokeswoman Sorina Weiland said that all renovation costs will be billed to the owner of the properties.
The expropriation is authorized by the Hamburg Housing Protection Act (Hamburger Wohnraumschutzgesetz), a 1982 law that was updated by the city’s Socialist government in May 2013 to enable the city to seize any residential property unit that has been vacant for more than four months.
The forced lease, the first of its kind in Germany, is said to be aimed at pressuring the owners of other vacant residences in the city to make them available for rent. Of the 700,000 rental units in Hamburg, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 (less than one percent) are believed to be vacant, according an estimate by the Hamburg Senate.
Germany has gone all in on accepting refugees from the Middle East and other war-torn regions of the world. The nation took in nearly 900,000 in 2015 alone, The Washington Post reported. In all, millions of refugees have poured into the country, creating chaos in some cities, and driving down approval ratings for the once-popular chancellor, Angela Merkel.
This isn't the first time a city has tried to confiscate property to give to refugees.
"A strange report made the round the weekend: the Senate wanted to empower the police to enter private apartments to accommodate refugees there, even against the will of the owners," German columnist, Gunnar Schupelius, wrote in November 2015.
The emergency plan would have allowed city officials to seize private residences to accommodate asylum seekers. "The proposal would have authorized police forcibly to enter private homes and apartments without a warrant to determine their suitability as housing for refugees and migrants," Gatestone reported:
The proposal was kept secret from the public until the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) in Berlin, Sebastian Czaja, warned the measure would violate the German constitution. He said:
"The plans of the Berlin Senate to requisition residential and commercial property without the consent of the owner to accommodate refugees is an open breach of the constitution. The attempt by the Senate to undermine the constitutional right to property and the inviolability of the home must be resolutely opposed."
Since then, both the mayor's office and the Senate appear to have abandoned their plans.