A New Model of Housing for Ireland?

David Grin Examines the Vienna Model of Housing

Could a housing model that has been successful in Austria hold the answers for the housing crisis in Ireland

The prevailing housing crisis has put intense pressure on the Irish government to find a solution to the affordable housing shortage. An alarming recent report released by the Department of Housing for the month of February showed a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people, climbing above 10,000, marking a rise of 277 people compared to the month of January. This increase includes more than 160 children, bringing the total number of homeless children in the State to 3,784.

Finding a Long-term Housing Solution

These statistics are extremely disappointing, especially when considering the measures the government has already taken to alleviate the housing shortage. It reveals how difficult and complex the situation in the country is and the radical changes to the system that need to be made.

The Vienna model of housing is one prospective solution that has received a lot of recent media attention. This housing model advocates for publicly-owned rental housing as a long-term solution, which is different from the traditional homeownership model pursued by the Irish government.

In a recent report by the Irish Times, Brendan Kenny, deputy chief executive of Dublin City Council, said the local housing authority is considering new possible models of housing to cope with the housing crisis, including the Vienna model. He articulated the need for the government to adopt a “holistic view capable of fostering a socially integrated society living in sustainable and affordable housing,” which is encouraged under the Vienna model.

A Unique Approach to Public Housing

The Vienna model is internationally regarded for its unique approach to delivering sustainable, high-quality and affordable residential housing making the city attractive to residents and tourists alike.

Vienna has made building affordable housing for all citizens a priority starting a hundred years ago. Social housing in the city includes publicly owned housing, subsidized rental units built by housing associations on limited profit contracts and renovated units as part of an overall urban renewal program.

Through this method, almost two-thirds of the general population of Vienna now live in integrated public housing. The model also appears to be responsive to growing demands, delivering housing on an ongoing basis, rather than according to cyclical construction programmes. This provides a constant influx of housing in one of Europe’s fastest growing cities.

Social Housing for All

Additionally, most homes in Vienna, three-quarters of them, are primarily rented and two-thirds are owned by councils or non-profits. According to the Vienna model, the price of housing is surveyed based on stock and maintenance rather than the market value of rent. This helps to provide Austrian citizens with quality, affordable, long-term housing accommodations.

A unique aspect of this housing model is that citizens of all earning levels are entitled to state housing support. With rent controls and no limits to term of leases, tenants enjoy a sense of home and long-term security.

South Dublin will soon begin construction on the first cost-rental housing model in Ireland, demonstrating that the country is taking steps toward changes, but it is still a long away from a public housing model for the entire population.

If you are interested in learning more about the pioneering Vienna model of housing, there is a month-long exhibition currently underway in CHQ in Dublin’s Docklands, which will be rotating to The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun and Richmond Barracks in Inchicore. The exhibition is sponsored by the Dublin City Council, the Housing Agency and the City of Vienna and will include a series of seminars and events focused on the Vienna housing model.



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