Vienna Social Housing

BBC Radio 4 series:  Rental Health — Vienna

 The first in the series on rented accommodation(27/03/23), presented by Kirsty Lang, was a eulogy of Vienna’s social housing, which was very inspiring.  This is what she explained.

Vienna has had a radical housing policy going back over a century, it is the largest property owner in Europe, 60% of the population live in some form of subsidised housing, and that includes the middle classes.  Tenants enjoy protection against eviction and rent rises, key workers can actually afford to live in the city centre.   The large availability of subsidised housing brings down rents in the private sector.   It is a model for other cities in Europe to follow.

According to Maik Novotny an architect interviewed on the programme, Vienna’s housing policy stemmed from the housing shortage after the first world war.  Since it has its own policy as a City State, they were able to raise a housing tax in 1923 and built 63000 houses between 1923 and 1933.

Lang asks the question: how can a conservative country have such a progressive left-wing policy?

Vienna has been run by the same party, which has afforded continuity; the city has its own department of housing research, they keep on learning and improving.

A former deputy-mayor of Vienna explains the law: if a developer wants to build more than 150 housing units, 2/3 of them must be subsidised housing.  The developers can get out of this by negotiation if they contribute financially to social infrastructure, such as building a school or if the proposal is very innovative, then the proportion can be reduced to 50% plus one unit.  

It is profitable: the land is affordable; the city gives loans.  There are numerous developers because it is profitable.

Almost every new development is subject to an architectural competition along the 4 criteria or 4 pillars of  architecture/ecology/economy/ social sustainability.  Social sustainability (the phrase was coined 25 years ago) is based on avoidance of conflict, and  mixing people of different income and background.

Maik Novotny concludes:  Cost is not the only difference between London and Vienna.  There is a different philosophy.  Housing is not considered as just a commodity that can be bought and sold by those who can afford it.  It is considered a human right.  By having non profit housing associations and a rent cap, if you compare it to the Anglo-Saxon world, you avoid social conflict and you avoid ghettoes, so regulated housing is to the advantage of everyone.

The housing market it is not interested in solving conflicts, because it profits from scarcity.

Other sources on Vienna housing:

On the new district Aspern Seestadt:

and an earlier BBC programme on Vienna housing.  It really is inspirational and amongst many photos of lovely classical buildings like the Opera House, there are lots of the social housing schemes!  The city is vibrant because of the housing policy combined with very cheap trams.

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