On March 19th 2022, Zoë Claire Miller was awarded the Will Grohmann Prize at the Academy of the Arts, Berlin. She took the opportunity to directly address Mayor Franziska Giffey, who was in the audience, about the housing crisis in Berlin.
“Thank you, I'm super grateful for this prize. It means so much to me – especially as it is awarded by the Academy of Arts, not a car company or energy company – but from the venerable art scene, the people who helped make the city the important art venue it still is. I actually won the prize last year and have already spent the prize money, mostly on rent. But I can consider myself extremely lucky that I came here 14 years ago, and so was able to find a place to live. If I were to move here now, I certainly wouldn't be able to find an apartment. We are in a catastrophic situation, with conditions that no longer only affect those living the most precariously, the marginalized and the working class. Even the middle class can no longer find housing that they can afford. But there are great options to counter this. One thing that came to my mind, directly in connection with the volunteer efforts to aid refugees that you mentioned: there are at least 730 vacant properties in the city right now, empty for the sake of speculation. (Check out the website www.leerstandsmelder.de) The legal means for expropriating these properties immediately, and for using them to house people, already exist.
We are screwed; all of us, collectively. That’s also why I really appreciate the opportunity to address you directly, Ms. Giffey, Governing Mayor of Berlin.
I'm sure you're wondering what designer I'm wearing! I am wearing Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen and Jake Kent, who interpreted some Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen visuals. So over a million Berliners voted for the referendum, and now quite a bit of time has passed. There were also a number of expert assessments of the referendum in advance, confirming its legal status, so it can no longer be a question of whether, but only how to socialize the predatory real estate companies. And on this count – as you mentioned in the context of refugee support, Ms. Giffey – the people of Berlin also stand together in solidarity. The coalition agreement clearly states that the development of the socialization law is to take place involving the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen initiative, but strangely enough, there has been no contact between the Senator for Urban Development, Building and Housing Andreas Geisel and the initiative – so there must be some misunderstanding here!”
Giffey: “What you say is not true. That's not true.”
Giffey: “There was a conversation last week and we will do what we said we would do. You should get better informed.”
Zoë: “Okay, great, I was still at the level of the week before. That's terrific that a conversation took place, great. In any case, many Berliners are afraid that it may be useless to discuss lower rents with billion-dollar real estate companies like Vonovia, as after all, if you want to drain a swamp, it’s not the frogs you should speak with. For them, naturally, the shareholder dividends have top priority, and it's obvious that they're neither interested in constructive cooperation on a socialization law nor affordable rents. As your party comrade Raed Saleh said back in 2015, referendums are just as legally binding as parliamentary decisions are. I have complete trust in your democratic obligation to initiate this socialization law, because anything other than that would of course be a betrayal of democracy. And as a symbol of this trust, from me and from over a million Berliners, I would like to give you this award certificate I just received, and would like you to hold onto it for me until the real estate corporations are socialized.”
(Unfortunately, Mayor Giffey left the symbol of trust beneath her seat.)