Short Summary

Mietshäusersyndikat is a federation of quasi-inalienable German housing commons that was organized in 1987. The syndicate aspires to help housing projects last for generations so that they may remain commons, rather than being re-privatized. Their 1992 statute states that their goal is "to support the genesis and achieve political acceptance of self-organized house projects—humane living space and a roof over the head, for everybody."

Website address: syndikat.org

Location: Based in Freiburg, Germany but has projects throughout the country

Photos for a German documentary about the syndicate, "Das ist unser Haus" (2016). source


In 2013, Mietshäusersyndikat consisted of 50 housing projects connected to each other. By 2015, this number had risen to 95, and by 2017, 127 housing commons were associated with Mietshäusersyndikat and more than a dozen additional initiatives were interested in joining.

Mietshäusersyndikat is only entitled under German law to give subsidiary credits as a legal requirement. Otherwise it would be considered an "illegal banking business."

All Mietshäusersyndikat projects share two important features:

1) Each project is quasi-inalienable common property.

Mietshäusersyndikat deliberately attempts to decommodify housing by making it quasi-inalienable—i.e., very difficult to sell on the market. The syndicate is organized as a GmbH—a limited liability business entity—with voting rights vested in only two entities, the syndicate and the particular housing project. The syndicate voting rights are restricted to very fundamental decisions such as whether to buy or sell real estate, and amendments to the organizing statutes. Everything else is completely self-organized and peer governed by each housing project. If there is interest in selling a property that has been held in common, there are only two votes in any final decision: one vote from the respective housing association and the other from the syndicate. This gives the syndicate veto power over any decision by a housing association to sell its building, but it also enforces open deliberation. The structure provides an important check on the power of apartment owners (the housing projects) who may wish to sell and thereby reap a personal windfall from an appreciation of the building's market value. The voting structure helps prevent the cooperative housing from capitulating to market pressures and privatizing/disbanding.

2) Each project is managed through solidarity funding.

All Mietshäusersyndikat housing projects receive services from the syndicate according to their needs, and contribute funds for common needs—publications and materials, consulting, legal fees, startup funding—to the Mietshäusersyndikat. This contribution is called a "solidarity transfer." It starts at a sum of 0,10€ per square meter/per month, and rises based on a housing project's net income.

In a typical condominium, there are high up-front capital costs for investors and high profits later. In contrast, Mietshäusersyndikat properties generate no profit. Surplus revenues are used for solidarity transfers to new associations, i.e. projects that are beginning to invest and wish to join the syndicate.

This transfer from older to newer projects helps the network grow and helps to guarantee affordable rents into the future. It is important to note that residents in Mietshäusersyndikat projects always pay rents—even if their individual housing project is already debt-free—because they provide support not only to their respective apartment buildings, but to the whole federation.

YOUTUBE kxRNoqwXQBQ News report about Mietshäusersyndikat.


The housing syndicate is made up of numerous housing projects of all kinds. They include:
  • a housing project for senior women
  • a large apartment building for single parents
  • a converted former military barracks housing more than 200 people
A listing of all projects associated with the syndicate.

One of the Mietshäusersyndikat housing commons. source


Each project is financed by a mix of its residents' own capital, including peer-to-peer credits from member to member. A project's self-raised capital, plus peer-to-peer credit raised from people connected to the project, can cover 25-50% of the purchasing and/or construction/remodeling costs. A second source of funding is external capital: real estate credits from banks like GLS that have a socio-ecological mission, public banks (Sparkassen) and cooperative banks (Volksbanken).

Member-credit holders are not considered shareholders. There are no cooperative shares, just as there is no obligatory capital contribution to the federation. In case the credits cannot be paid back, the money is lost, but the people involved would not stay in debt with credit givers. Mietshäusersyndicat therefore encourages its members to support several other members instead of giving money to only one project. Interest for direct loans among members (cooperative lending among members} is fixed and goes up to 2% per annum, but there are no equity shares in case the value of the real estate increases. This financial arrangement has been dubbed "capital neutralization” by Mathias Neuling. According to Gunter Kramp, this unusual system is possible because:

"There are no shareholders who would be interested in increasing the value of the [Mietshäusersyndikat] real estate or selling it."

See Also

  • Woningbouwvereniging Soweto, a housing project in Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • VrijCoop, an association of housing cooperatives in the Netherlands that modeled itself after Mietshäusersyndikat
  • habiTAT, a cooperative housing network in Linz, Austria also inspired by Mietshäusersyndikat
  • The Clip, another adaptation of Mietshäusersyndikat located in France