Social Housing (Part 1)


Housing is possibly the biggest difference between London and Vienna. It’s such a complicated topic that I don’t think I can do it justice, but I’ll have a stab. I may write several more posts on this theme. Researching takes a while because there’s so much information to sift through. To start with I’ll try to lay out the huge gulf in social housing between these two cities.

Vienna: There are 2m people in Vienna. 25% of them rent Gemeindewohnungen, which are estates of flats built and owned by the State. Who can live in Gemeindewohnungen? Anyone who has lived in the city for more than 2 years. (There is a maximum salary you can have in order to apply, but it’s very high: €44,000 net for 1 person, €65,000 net for 2 people). Register online, choose which area of the city you’d like to live in, and wait for one to become available.  They were designed and built largely between 1918 and 1960, with the help of the leading architects of the time. Quite a few of them have saunas, and one even has swimming pools on its roof. The buildings are dotted all over the city and the flats are generally seen as desirable places to live. Given the number of them and their availability to a large section of the residents of Vienna, they keep a lid on the rents in the private sector also.

There’s a friendly website for people to register their interest.

London: There are over 8m people. Around 25% live in social housing as well. A lot of the council estates were built during the 1960s to low standards. They have a (quite possibly unfair) reputation for gangs, crime, and danger. Therefore people who don’t live there generally stay away. This sense of them being bad places can be seen everywhere, for example in the media where every rags to riches story starts out with the person growing up on a council estate. (Eg: “Lewis Hamilton: The Formula One Champion who grew up on a Stevenage Council Estate”). It’s always as if to say: “wow, that person did well, for someone who grew up on a council estate.”

There’s a very unfriendly website to apply for social housing in London (which you have a do by borough/Bezirk, it’s not a joined up system across the city). For example here’s an excerpt from the Greenwich Council website:

“There are more people looking for council and housing association homes in Royal Greenwich than there are properties available. As a result, you may experience a long wait before we are able to assist you.

We would therefore encourage you to consider other housing options.”