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Gernot Tscherteu: Vienna

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Gemeinsam-Bauen-Wohnen: Initiative für gemeinschaftliches Bauen und Wohnen is working to return Vienna to the forefront of alternative housing. Gernot Tscherteu gives us an update. You can hear even more from Tscherteu at the Experimentdays 10: International Conference.

What is the housing situation like in Vienna?

Housing here in Vienna is actually quite good. The market is satisfied, and you can get relatively cheap rentals – in some areas for as low as €1/sqm. Buying is more expensive: in the center, the price is around €3300/sqm and a gentrification process is underway. But, overall, compared to cities like Munich and Zürich, Vienna is still very affordable.

What about alternative solutions like cooperative housing projects?

In Austria, there used to be hundreds of projects in the 1970s and 1980s, but then in the 1990s, they stopped. Now there’s only one left, a place called the Sargfabrik [photo], a former coffin factory transformed into the biggest self-governing living and cultural project in Vienna.

How supportive are the authorities?

The city of Vienna is key because it dominates the whole housing market. It gives money to developers so they can make new and relatively cheap living spaces and processes one-third of the city’s population through its own housing scheme. But by providing the funding for new projects, it also makes the rules, some of which make it very hard for grassroots collective initiatives. At the moment, the city is not very interested in funding cohousing projects. We’ll see what happens after the elections in October.

Do you think the situation could improve?

I actually think it will. Every time there’s a new building project, the city has a competition in which one of the main criteria is social sustainability: that’s a good opportunity for us. And I think social sustainability will be given more importance after the election.

Vienna stats:

Population 1,680,266

Average apartment purchase price/sqm in the city centre €3300

Average monthly disposable income (after tax) €2880

Density/sq km 3400

Average rent for a one-bedroom in the city centre €775/month