New Social Housing - Reasons for an IBA in Vienna


For many decades, Vienna has a high reputation for its successful social housing policy and for the high standards in housing construction as well as in the urban renewal. The question hence arises, why has Vienna then decided to organize an IBA on the subject of “New Social Housing” and the answer is short: Because housing in Vienna is also facing new huge challenges at the beginning of the 21st century and, in particular, because an outstanding positioning demands the obligation to strive ceaselessly and involving many actors for new developments and forward-looking action.

Cities are growing all over Europe while in the meantime the economy and to an increasing extent the population have still to struggle with the consequences of the global financial crisis. It is therefore the responsibility of the cities to search on time for new ways in order to continue to offer affordable and high-quality living space. This need for structural development naturally also applies to Vienna as a leading city in the field of social housing. 

For many decades, Vienna has been known for its successful, social housing policy and for high qualities in housing construction and urban renewal. But of course, Vienna's housing sector is also facing major new challenges at the beginning of the 21st century:

The rapid growth of the city, especially in recent years, which - albeit at a slower pace - continues at a constant rate, will cause the population of Vienna to increase to more than 2 million in the very near future - this corresponds to an increase of roughly 1/3 of the total population in recent decades. Vienna will reach again its historic peak from the beginning of the 20th century (the so called Gründerzeit). The City of Vienna has therefore resolved to further increase the high level of subsidized new construction, currently at 9,000 housing units per year - all in all 13,000 new apartments shall be provided per year.

The flight to tangible assets such as “concrete gold” has increased also in Vienna the real estate prices. The incomes are stagnating in large segments of the population and since the COVID 19 crisis they have actually been falling. The City of Vienna provides with gross rents of maximally 7.50 Euro / m² very affordable renting conditions with new municipal apartments and especially with the SMART housing program which is responsible for up to 50% of the new subsidized housing construction.

At the same time Vienna is facing a demographic transformation: On one hand, the city population becomes in average younger, and Vienna, which was traditionally the oldest among the federal states of Austria, became lately the federal state with youngest average population. On the other hand, the number of elderly and very old people increases and their specific needs have to be taken into consideration too.

Finally, Vienna has been challenged also by global events such as the new financial crisis of 2020 and the global refugee movement. Social differences are increasing on a European scale. For the City of Vienna, it is therefore highly important to pursue and to follow up its policy of social inclusion and social mix. The Mayor of Vienna is proud that one cannot identify the social status of another person in Vienna from the mere housing address as it is the case in many other cities in the world. And this shall be the central goal also under economically difficult framework conditions.

The challenges of climate change and climate protection to which Austria committed itself i.a. in Paris in 2015 are constantly relevant for housing in Vienna: On one hand, high energy standards have to be further improved. On the other hand, by increasing the resilience of housing construction with regard to climate change. Great attention is given to implementing meaningful, innovative, and holistic solutions in order to avoid ending up in one-sided technological or cost-related dead ends, because housing must first and foremost remain affordable. Vienna has already now the highest number of multi-story passive houses and will go on elaborating on future-oriented themes in the framework of its smart city activities.

The aim of the IBA_Vienna is to stimulate and support smart new developments for the future of social housing and their practical implementation. Affordability, secure housing conditions and modern standards for a dignified living environment have at all times shaped these developments. In addition, many questions arise about how to respond to global developments and their effects on us, for example: How do we deal with changing work conditions? How can disadvantaged people be effectively supported? How can a high standard of quality be guaranteed when prices for land and construction are rising and people are under pressure? How do cities contribute to protecting our living environment? And how do we adapt to the already noticeable effects of climate change? How can living together be designed and organized in a sustainable way? In other words: How will we live tomorrow?

By 2022, a total of more than 100 innovative projects and processes will therefore be implemented in nine neighbourhoods and at 15 individual locations, both in selected areas of the urban development and the built city. New models and processes in connection with issues of social housing are being tested to make Vienna fit for the demands of the future: Affordability, mobility, living together and healthy living & working are the focus of the International Building Exhibition "IBA_Vienna 2022".

A seven-week exhibition for the interim presentation of the IBA_Vienna took place in autumn 2020. For the first time, this exhibition provided a complete overview of the selected projects and measures, and offered a workshop-like insight into their current stages of development. In some cases, they act as individual projects, while the majority, in cooperation with others, make active contributions to sustainable and comprehensive neighborhood development. Each of them makes a contribution to society and is not an end in itself. What they all have in common is that they are currently being implemented or finished. And by the time of the IBA_Vienna’s final presentation in 2022, most of the projects shown here will have been completed.