Vienna's Lessons for Building High-Quality Affordable Housing

Could Vienna's century of experience in creating housing that is both affordable and attractive offers lessons for how the U.S. can address its growing affordability crisis? In the Austrian capital, more regulation, not less, leads to cheaper rents.

While pundits in America lament the role of government regulation in driving up the cost of housing, "[a] unique system nearly a century in the making has created a situation today in which the city government of Vienna either owns or directly influences almost half the housing stock in the capital city," writes Ryan Holeywell. "As a result, residents enjoy high-quality apartments with inexpensive rent, along with renters’ rights that would be unheard of in the U.S."

"The Viennese have decided that housing is a human right so important that it shouldn’t be left up to the free market."

First established in Vienna in the 1920s, "[t]he idea that everyday citizens should have access to not just affordable apartments but also attractive ones -- and that it’s the city’s responsibility to provide them -- continues to this day. There’s a mindset that housing is a way to link residents to their communities and the larger city through design," notes Holeywell.

"Vienna’s government takes an approach to residential development that’s more rigorous and deliberative than many private-sector developers in America. That’s because in the U.S., 'cost is the No. 1 priority,' [architectural historian William] Menking says. In Vienna, it’s just one of four. At the same time, the competition among developers is so fierce -- the result of the city’s land monopoly -- that the result is a very affordable development. 'We were doing some comparisons of public housing in Los Angeles and public housing in Vienna,' Menking says, 'and Vienna was cheaper per square foot than L.A.'”

Full Story: Affordable and Luxurious Housing Come Hand in Hand in Vienna

Comments

Comments

H+T

A good way to lower the total cost of living is to build the affordable housing in a densely populated neighborhood with great transit, safe biking, and convenient local shopping. Being able to live well without a car matters a lot if you're one of the many who spend more on driving than on your home. That's something else they got right in Vienna.

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
Book cover of Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Featuring thought-provoking commentary and insights from some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the field.
$18.95
Woman wearing city map tote bag

City Shoulder Totes

Durable CityFabric© shoulder tote bags available from 5 different cities.
$22.00