An apartment, a swimming pool and a cinema: living in Vienna is affordable

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An apartment, a swimming pool and a cinema: living in Vienna is affordable

Spacious living in a good place for a low price: there are fewer and fewer places in and outside the Netherlands where that is possible. In contrast to Vienna: in the Austrian capital you can rent a centrally located 100 square meter apartment for less than 900 euros per month, including a few special extras. How is that possible?

Right behind the city’s central station is the Sonnwendviertel, a number of modern apartment complexes connected by footbridges and corridors around a communal courtyard. The more than 400 residents all have their own spacious balcony.

Isabella Weisskircher, who has lived in one of the apartments for seven years, gives a short tour: living room with open kitchen, past the cooking island to the covered balcony with lounge furniture, a bathroom with bath, an extra room that serves as a walk-in closet and from the bedroom she walks straight onto her second, even larger balcony.

She shares this 100 square meter apartment with her boyfriend, for 890 euros per month. Only electricity, heating costs and water are added to that. Already included: access to a small cinema room, a climbing wall and a swimming pool in the basement with two saunas and a steam bath. “All together I spend about 30 percent of my income on living costs,” estimates Weisskircher. “I’m very happy here, I don’t want to live anywhere else.”

‘Gemeinnützige’ apartments

The special thing about this complex is that, in addition to owner-occupied homes, it largely consists of ‘gemeinnützige Wohnungen’: the great asset of the Viennese system. “This means that we make good quality homes available under favorable conditions, which we maintain over several generations,” explains Alexander Gluttig. He is the boss of EBG Wohnen, the housing association that has built this and other apartment complexes according to this model.

The Municipality of Vienna commissions the construction and helps to finance construction projects. As a result, the corporations have the certainty that they can obtain money for the construction, and they only have to earn back the investments after about forty years.

According to the rules of the Viennese municipality, they must offer this type of housing at cost price. Profit is only allowed to a limited extent, and that profit must therefore flow back into investments in the homes. This makes it similar to the Dutch system.

An important difference is: the homes that the housing associations offer are not social rent. This means that these ‘gemeinnützige’ apartments are also available for people with a higher income, up to 50,000 euros. net per year. By way of comparison: in the Netherlands a corporation has to rent out most of the houses to people with a disability gross– income below roughly 40,000 euros per year.

A rent of less than 9, and sometimes even 8 or 7 euros per square meter is no exception in Vienna. Economic researcher Michael Klien of the economic research institute WIFO calculated the advantage for tenants: “It saves about 160 euros per month compared to free sector rental properties.”


This system of housing associations that build for a relatively broad public goes back more than a hundred years in Vienna. The housing shortage in the city was already high at the end of the nineteenth century. When the Social Democratic Party came to power after the First World War, the government took more responsibility for the construction of affordable housing into its own hands. Especially after the Second World War, construction picked up steam. Many homes had been destroyed, others were flawed and outdated. For a long time there has been fairly continuous construction in Vienna. And the housing association homes were later not sold to commercial parties, as has happened in other countries.

In the Netherlands, housing associations operated for a long time as in Austria. In recent decades, however, they have come in a bad light here due to various scandals, such as those surrounding Vestia and Rochdale.

From the 1990s, the Dutch government decided to leave more to the free market. The biggest change came after real estate investors in the Netherlands complained to the European Commission that the state-sponsored corporations would provide housing for too many high-income people and thus compete unfairly with commercial companies. The EC asks the Netherlands to adjust the rules, and the Netherlands agrees in 2009. Only people with a low income are still allowed in housing association homes.

40% of Austrians now rent a house in a housing association house that is not social housing. And that also influences the private housing market, says Klien. “Indirectly it also has a dampening effect on the private sector rents, because they have to compete with the cheaper housing.”

Is the competition still fair? According to Klien, the market in Vienna does not seem disrupted. “There are complaints here and there from commercial companies. But if you look at Vienna and Austria in general, you see that the private sector is growing very quickly. More than ever houses are being built for profit. So the argument that the corporations would displace private construction is very difficult to make at the moment.”

An apartment, a swimming pool and a cinema: living in Vienna is affordable
Source link An apartment, a swimming pool and a cinema: living in Vienna is affordable

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