People’s Initiative for Safe Homes and Jobs in North-Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)


It is an initiative that is currently in action. So far, among many other referendum-styled movements against the privatisation of housing in Germany, it has had the largest geographic extension and a political impact. The initiative unites tenant”s organisations throughout the country and trade unions. It is politically supported by the Greens, Social Democratic Party, Party of Democratic Socialism and the new left party WASG.

The initiative organizes social protests against the plans of the liberal-conservative government of North-Rhine-Westphalia to sell the country-owned housing company called LEG (over 100.000 housing units) and against the parallel plan to cancel country regulations regarding the improved protection of tenants against evictions. The initiative even campaigns against the continuation of the selling of public and social housing to international financial investors.

Against privatization of LEG NRW

By privatization of the country owned social landlord Landesentwicklungsgesellschaf (LEG) the government of North-Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) intends to give up public control to over 100.000 flats, many of them in larger scale social housing schemes.

LEG today it is the largest landlord in NRW. Directly, it owns 60.000 housing units. Via holding shares of other housing companies it controls another 40.000 units. More than 1000 employees care for the housing management and maintenance. LEG also is an important developer in the field of urban renewal and re-use of wasted industrial land. 70 % of LEG shares are directly owned by the countries’ holding, the rest are owned by the countries” bank.

By merging a couple other public housing companies LEG was founded in 1970. During its first decade LEG focused on city renewal, urban development and housing. In 1980 LEG defined one of their primal task to be development and marketing of vacant industrial land. During the following years the housing stock of LEG continuously increased, because of their increasing number of new constructions and by the taking over of other social housing companies (in particular those which fell in crisis). One of the most extreme examples to portray LEG as a “crisis solver” was when it owned “Neue Heimat”. This stangs out since LEG was seen as the “savior” of 38.000 housing units from the bankrupt housing company of the trade-unions. In 1987 LEG took over these housing stocks, many of them large scale social housing schemes, for a symbolic prize of 1 Mark.

Because LEG took over many critical acquisitions the company since a couple of years is facing some economic problems. The country did not increase the capital stock to an efficient level. Many of the housing complexes need high investment in renewal and maintenance. The concentration of many migrants and poorer people require special attention on social neighborhood management. LEG is active in many neighborhood management projects.

Because of the somewhat critical economic situation that LEG has been facing during the past years, it sold thousands of housing units to tenants and investors. Different to other landlords, LEG reinvests the returns directly into the improvement of the actual buildings. The legal protection standards for the units on sale are comparably high. Nevertheless LEG was heavily criticized for making these sales.

In some of the larger neighborhoods the LEG guarantees participative instruments which are unique for Germany. “Tenants councils” are elected by all the tenants and enjoy specific rights for negotiating renewal plans and other problems. They can use companies facilities and spaces. This attitude encouraged tenants to engage for their neighborhoods.

LEG complexes are characterized by a lot of innovative projects and programs, both regarding the built environment and social cohesion. Examples of such projects are ecological insulation improvements, upgrading of green public spaces together with the tenants, youth clubs, support for migrants children, free supper and new forms of managing of social mixture. Example: The neighborhood “Klausen” in the city of Remscheid enjoys having 45 social institutions and associations which coordinate themselves in a “neighborhood conference”.