‘Housing utopia’ where rent is £193 a month and residents can’t be evicted

Hull: Inside council house that's ‘falling away’

In the 12 months to February 2023, rental prices for the UK, excluding London, increased by 4.8 percent.

It means renters have on average faced £2,820 a year increase in rental costs over the last five years.

Not only restricted to the private rental sector, tenants in social housing saw their rents rise by seven percent as of April 2023.

Many are reeling from the rises, but the picture is much different in one major European city.

Vienna, Austria, has been described as a “renter’s utopia”, hailed for its progressive social housing policies which began in the 1920s and 30s.

Today, that social housing sees more than 60 percent of the city’s 1.8 million residents living in subsidised housing.

More than half of the housing market is either city-owned flats or cooperative apartments.

A more even playing field means 80 percent of Viennese are renters, thanks to strict rent control laws.

These laws ensure that people only pay 20 to 25 percent of their income on housing. In some cases, they pay as little as eight percent.

In Britain, at least half of people spend at least half of their pay on rent, according to SpareRoom.

The average salary is between around £25,000 and £30,000, meaning if Vienna’s policy were rolled out in the UK, renters could be paying as little as £166 a month.

Vienna’s Gemeindebauten — its council estates — differ from those seen around the UK. Rather than being painted in the bland and often dull colours familiar to British equivalents, they are high-quality and bright, often featuring stunning balconies and plant installations.

Also unlike in Britain, they are not exclusively for those who are less well-off.

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Some 80 percent of people qualify for social housing in Vienna, such is the height of the income cap.

Once approved, renter’s contracts never expire — even if their salaries increase.

This is said to lead to greater economic diversity within the Gemeindebauten’s communities and make for a more mixed bunch of inhabitants.

Peter Pilz, a former member of Austria’s Green Party who took over his grandmother’s social housing unit, told the New York Times in May: “If people don’t have to struggle all day long to survive — if your life is made safe, at least in social conditions — you can use your energy for much more important things.”

Mr Pilz found himself in the headlines in 2012 after it was claimed he was only paying €66 (£57) a month to live in his property in the Goethehof Gemeindebauten on the Danube River.

This was despite him making more than €8,000 (£6912) a month from his job in parliament.

The UK Government has several times been accused of ignoring social housing and renters in need of affordable housing.

This week, the Labour Party’s Shadow Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy is expected to tell the Housing 2023 conference that her party will deliver “a refreshed model” that will “put social and genuinely affordable housing at the very heart of our plans to jump-start the housebuilding industry”.

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