My e-Participation Story - Page 9

But in 2007 the house was sold to a private investor by Berlin’s senate without any protection for the tenants. After rent control dropped in 2014 the investor sent a plan for modernisation. They also announced a rent increase of up to 80% - unaffordable to most pensioners who faced the loss of their homes despite having been assured in writing that their homes were safe, even if the house would be sold privately! Younger tenants, who had moved in after the sale, terminated their lease within a couple of weeks: no one wanted to live on a building site for two years and have to pay more rent afterwards. Around 30 pensioners aged between 73 and 98 did not want to move out as the community was very important to them: game nights, excursions, the house choir, birthday celebrations together... At first they tried talking to the investor, but without success. The city expressed their regret at the sale of the house without protecting the rights of the elderly, but also said that these now have to “live with it”. The seniors did not see it that way and wanted to make the situation public. In June 2014 they designed their own webpage and opened an online petition on change.org. They were totally overwhelmed by huge public attention, not only in Berlin and nationwide, but also internationally! “Buy back the house” was their demand to the Berlin senate. Today the petition has more than 104,000 signatures and the seniors have many new supporters around the world via mail, Facebook and Twitter. There are, for example, students from Barcelona who interviewed the ‘Trümmerfrauen’ and wrote their final thesis about their experiences. The seniors have learned one thing: the internet and social networks are powerful tools for information sharing, contacts and participation. �9