A look at city-owned social housing in Vienna

Facing severe housing shortages in the early 20th century, Vienna has worked hard to address the issues of homelessness and affordability with what has become a hundred-year history of progressive housing policies. Beginning with the Tenancy Act in 1917 and followed by the community-driven housing cooperatives in the early 1920s, the subsequent "Red Vienna" period — 1924 to 1933 — and post World War II reforms, the city has continually made housing for all its residents a top priority.

Vienna's emphasis on affordable housing is evident in some of the policies that the city has implemented. For example, the city gives nonprofit cooperatives tax benefits as long as they invest profits back into housing, provides financial support for new construction, and caps the maximum rent that private owners can charge. The city also offers a free housing arbitration office and subsidies to low-income households.

The city currently owns and manages roughly 220,000 apartments, and is also home to a further 136,000 subsidized residences by nonprofit cooperatives. These co-ops originated during the reconstruction effort following WWII, and today are increasingly being initiated by "Baugruppen" (self-organized intentional housing groups). Examples of cooperative housing initiatives are the Sargfabrik, in 1996, or the Wohnprojekt Wien, in 2013. These housing cooperatives, combined with state owned apartments, make up an incredible 60 percent of today's Viennese housing.

 Activating the Urban Commons

View the full policies (in German) here: 

This policy is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

Header image by Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash

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