Solidarity, not Dividends! European Landlord VONOVIA should not profit from the Crisis

Tuesday, June 30, VONOVIA SE, the largest private landlord in Europe, will hold its annual shareholder meeting. Although tenants and cities suffer  from the consequences of the Corona crisis, the board of VONOVIA SE proposes to spend 851 million Euro for the dividends of the shareholders. The Platform of Ethical Real Estate Share Holders, a group of tenant activists and critical observers of the financialised housing business, demands the opposite. The enormous profit of the business year 2019 should be re-distributed for reduction of rents and the coverage of the social costs of the crisis in future.

According to the Platform of Ethical Real Estate Share Holders the planned dividend payout would extract 37 % of the rents paid by the Vonovia tenants in 2019. Most of Vonovia’s tenants are people with limited or low income. Due to short-time work and lost income many tenants today earn significantly less than last year. People pay their rents at the expense of savings, food, holidays, education. Some people can no longer afford to pay the rents at all and are getting into debt. In Germany, so far, extreme hardships could often be absorbed by emergency aid measures and easier access to social benefits. However, thismeans that Vonovia gets subsidies from public funds.

Given this situation, the critical shareholders believe that the payout of such a high amount of dividends cannot be justified in any way. The money would urgently be needed for:

  • the reduction and limitation of inflated rents for all,
  • an exemption from paying rent for those tenants, who are particularly vulnerable to the crisis,
  • the abandonment of the non-transparent passing of intra-group invoices for rents and service charges,
  • the climate-just renewal of houses without an explosion of rents,
  • better working conditions for employees,
  • a better tenant-related housing management,
  • coping with the future costs of the crisis!

All these demands also apply to Sweden, where Vonovia has bought up many former social housing units in disadvantaged urban areas. Vonovia CEO Rolf Buch recently emphasizedthat he is very interested in further expansions, especially to France. At June 26th VONOVIA announced a first step into the Dutch housing market.

For the Vonovia Annual General Meeting 2020, which will take place online on June 30, 2020, several critical shareholders have submitted countermotions to reflect the above-mentioned views.

For the first time ever, critics from Sweden will also take the floor at a general meeting. Activists from Stockholm are demanding a reduction of rents and a repair of the houses. Applicants from Dortmund and Witten in the Ruhr area complain that Vonovia is a rent driver. A counter-motion is also directed against the relief of the management board, which is accused of not being transparent in its accounting to the tenants.

 

On June 29, 2020, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., we are organizing a virtual counter-event to the Annual General Meeting 2020 of Vonovia SE together with the German Tenants’ Association NRW, the Tenants’ Forum Ruhr and the umbrella organization of ethical shareholders. Among the speakers are representatives of tenant unions, tenant grassroot groups and researchers. The meeting will be hold in German and be streamed at YouTube.

June 30, 14h we will hold a press meeting at Zoom, which will be streamed at YouTube as well. Questions can also be asked in English.