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In this file photo taken on September 11, 2021 A demonstrator wears a face protection mask reading "Yes! Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen" as she takes part in a protest against the soaring living costs of tenants, in Berlin.PAUL ZINKEN/AFP/Getty Images

Voters in the German capital have backed a proposal for the Berlin regional government to take over nearly 250,000 apartments worth billions from corporate owners to curb rising rents.

A nearly complete count of Sunday’s referendum showed 56.4% of voters in favour of the measure, and 39% opposed.

The non-binding referendum forces the Berlin government to consider expropriating big landlords in a radical move to cool one of Germany’s hottest real estate markets, where rents have become unaffordable for many residents in recent years.

Berlin’s bold proposal for surging rents: Evict the landlords

Also Sunday, the centre-left Social Democrats appeared to have defended their hold of the mayoral post in the capital.

Initial projections indicated that the Greens had won, but subsequent counts showed them falling behind with 18.8% of the vote compared to the Social Democrats’ 21.4%.

In a second regional election held in parallel to the national vote Sunday, the Social Democrats were set for a strong win in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. The party was projected to get 39.6% of the vote, ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany with 16.7%. Exit polls showed the Social Democrats’ current coalition partners, the Union bloc, coming third in the state with 13.3%.