You'll hear more about housing in Vienna in 2019. Dublin City Council's Head of Housing Policy Research and Development Daithí Downey has ensured that an exhibition that featured as a side-event at the conference will come to Dublin this Spring. It will showcase good examples from Vienna of new and refurbished public housing. Most of Vienna’s inhabitants live in subsidised dwellings, and the city itself owns 220,000 homes.
Kathrin Gaál, Chair of Vienna`s Housing Committee said at the conference: "We in Vienna view housing as a fundamental right and regard it as a public task."
Before I went to Vienna I worked out that the average rent for a two-bed house in Stoneybatter is around €1,700 a month. An equivalent apartment in Vienna would be around €330 per month, or one fifth the price. In Austria affordable rental housing isn't just for the least well-off, it is available to most residents.
Most people in Vienna rent, and most rent from the city itself, or the equivalent of our Approved Housing Bodies, similar to the Iveagh Trust or Respond Housing. During the 'Red Vienna' period from 1918 to 1934 the city built more than 60,000 homes. Back in Dublin Herbert Simms as Dublin Corporation's Housing Architect ensured that 17,000 homes were built between 1932 to 1948, not an inconsiderable achievement a few years after Vienna had kicked things off.
The difference in Austria is that political leaders believe in public housing, and they are building well-designed mixed-income public housing in significant numbers today. I was blown away by the quality of the housing stock, the attention given to detail and the good management of what they have. There is enormous civic pride in a city that goes out of its way to use housing policy to bring society together, rather than create divisions. They're not afraid to build high density public housing, but at the same time the quality of exterior landscaping, the planting and the generous balconies were something that you don't see too often in Dublin.
Since 1919 they've had a 1% tax on employment, split between employee and employer, and this helps fund ongoing investment in housing. They've also had a luxury tax, originally imposed on riding-horses, large private cars, servants in private households, and hotel rooms, but still in use today to provide decent housing for all.
The conference was linked in to the New Urban Agenda, which came out of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, and is all about sustainable urban development. It will hopefully lead to more pressure on the European Union to help tackle housing challenges, and that's something that I intend doing if elected to the European Parliament for Dublin next May. I took the opportunity while in Vienna to meet up with my European Green party colleague Maria Vassilakou who is Deputy-Mayor of Vienna. The Greens share power with the Social Democratic Party in Vienna, and she is working to ensure that the bulk of housing on larger sites will be either city housing, or provided at affordable rents.
I travelled to Austria with colleagues from our City Council in Dublin, as well as some of Dublin City Council's senior housing officials. Most of the housing I saw in Vienna was well-designed, properly managed and mixed in tenure. The Austrians having been doing this well for a hundred years. Cost-rental housing provides the opportunity to do this in Dublin and is worth supporting. Hopefully Minister Eoghan Murphy TD and his senior staff will pick up on this and apply some of the lessons from Vienna to Dublin's housing crisis.