Mietshäuser Syndikat

Community-Owned Housing
Cooperative for the joint acquisition of houses that are transferred to collective ownership in order to create long-term affordable housing and space for initiatives outside the market


In the 1980s, many cities in Germany were undergoing large-scale urban redevelopment, which often involved the demolition of existing housing and the displacement of low-income and socially marginalised communities. This led to widespread protests by groups including the anti-gentrification movement, which challenged this policy and demanded that the government take action to protect the rights of renters. Alternative housing models such as cooperatives and Community Land Trusts (CLTs) offer a critical response to market-driven approaches to housing and urban development.1Sabine Horlitz, ‘Housing Beyond Profit: A Comparison of U.S. and German Alternative Ownership Models’, AGI (29 June 2012) <https://www.aicgs.org/publication/housing-beyond-profit-a-comparison-of-u-s-and-german-alternative-ownership-models/> [accessed 23 October 2023]. These alternative models seek to transform housing from a commodity into a collectively owned social good, in which access to safe, secure, and affordable housing is provided and individual profit made impossible.


The Mietshäuser Syndikat (apartment-house syndicate) was formed as one of these alternative models for housing. It is a network of apartment houses across Germany whose members act as self-organised communities. They keep rents affordable to encourage long-term community-building and solidarity in resistance to land and property speculation. These ideas emerged in the 1980s and the syndicate itself was established in Freiburg in 1992. By 2022, the syndicate includes 177 self-organised apartment houses and another 17 initiatives currently in the process of finding, building, or buying a house.

Each project is an independent GmbH (private limited company) that includes two shareholders: the house community and the wider Mietshäuser Syndikat. The house community decides everything from wall colour to selecting new residents. However, the syndicate has the right to veto the sale of a property, thus ensuring that the property no longer functions as an exchange value. The underlying logic of the scheme is that houses should be communally owned, not by an individual person or group, such as a private or commercial landlord, or governmental institution.2Judith Vey, “Antinomies of Current Marxist- and Anarchist- Inspired Movements and Their Convergence”. Capital & Class 40, no. 1 (2016),pp. 67.

The syndicate increases its impact by providing support, legal advice, and assistance to existing and potential housing cooperatives, organising events and common activities, and advocating for more sustainable housing practices, such as energy efficiency and renewables. It also advocates for changes to housing legislation, such as the introduction of rent controls, to ensure that tenants and homeowners have more secure rental agreements.3For more on these and other strategies, see: Ivo Balmer and Tobias Bernet, “Housing as a Common Resource? Decommodification and Self-Organization in Housing – Examples from Germany and Switzerland”, in Urban CommonsMoving Beyond State and Market, ed. by Mary Dellenbaugh, Markus Kip, Majken Bieniok, Agnes Müller, and Martin Schwegmann (Berlin, Munich, Boston: Birkhäuser, 2022), pp. 178–95 <https://doi.org/10.1515/9783038214953-012>;Anna-Sophie Schneider and van Hove Anna, ‘Mietshäuser Syndikat: Wie Hausvereine bezahlbaren Wohnraum sichern’, Der Spiegel (20 February 2018) <https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/mietshaeuser-syndikat-wie-hausvereine-bezahlbaren-wohnraum-sichern-a-1186974.html> [accessed 23 October 2023] and Wolf Sören Treusch, ‘Das Mietshäuser Syndikat: Veto-Recht Zum Kampf Gegen Wohnungsspekulanten’, Deutschlandfunk Kultur (16 July 2018) <https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/das-mietshaeuser-syndikat-veto-recht-zum-kampf-gegen-100.html> [accessed 2 February 2023].

Their focus on using existing buildings rather than demolishing and building anew has promising environmental implications for reducing carbon emissions and material waste. Additionally, by prioritising the use value over the exchange value of housing stock, the syndicate promotes a socially sustainable approach to housing aligned with principles of the circular economy.


External links

HabiTAT—an Austrian alliance based on the syndicate’s housing model 

Neue Stadtgärtnerei—part of Mietshäuser Syndikat, an association that aims to create long-term cheap and ecologically high-quality living space for heterogeneous user groups 

Mietshäuser Syndikat Tübingen—an example of a syndicate 

Sharehaus Project—a co-housing project in Berlin 

Småland Housing—a smart housing and sustainable built environment initiative in Sweden