Housing Glossary and Map

This glossary and the adjoining map are tools for the Viennese project team to trace the material on social housing provision. We refer to these terms as we learn of their use according to rhetoric consensus at an institutional level. The aim of this ongoing process is to frame the complexity and reach of a housing system and its institutions in ways, which allow for translation not only literally (German-English) but also into different housing policies. Both glossary and map therefore operate at a rather abstract and general level at first, to then identify specific local practices.

Glossary and map represent a state of work and will be updated.


Affordability, dt.: Leistbarkeit:

The term “affordability” considers  the percentage of disposable income a household spends on all (→) housing expenses. Generally a share of no more than 30% is deemed affordable.
Vienna: in 2006 housing expenses in Austria where at an average of 19,1% of  household incomes, EU: 23%, GB: 18,2

Allocation of Tenants, dt.: Wohnungsvergabe (Mieterbelegung): (←Housing Policy)

Aside of market mechanisms of supply and demand, an active housing policy regulates the allocation of tenants at least in parts of the socially bound housing stock.
Vienna: Due to the City’s large (→) municipal housing stock , its housing department (MA 50; Wiener Wohnen) allocates tenants along official guidelines within all public housing itself and also does so for parts of (→) subsidized housing due to (→) funding regulations.

Area Renewal Office, dt.: Gebietsbetreuung: (← Promotion of Housing Renewals)

Vienna: facility installed by the City’s housing department at local level. Run by independent architectural or developer practices. Aside of the management and facilitation of urban renewal projects, these offices took on a wide range of communicative tasks within a neighbourhood, empowering initiatives and participatory movements at local level.


Building Regulations, dt.: Bauordnungen: (← Regulative Instruments)

Legislative regulation of all building activities meant to set minimal standards of common interest. Building regulations are one of the instruments of housing politics of far reaching influence in housing production.
Vienna: In Austria the building regulations are a matter of the respective federal state. There are efforts to harmonize this situation.

Building Industry, dt.: Bauindustrie: (← Housing Market)

The building industries’ interests and capacities influence the production or renewal of housing to a large extend as is clearly visible in the materiality of whole cultural areas.
Vienna: Though the architecture of “Gründerzeit” as well as that of “Red Vienna” was largely realized in brickwork and with an abundance of cheap labour, the prevailing building technique shifted after WWII and along with economic up-rise to prefabricated concrete structures. To this day anything but solid construction is exotic to Viennese housing production even in small-scale developments. The fact that in Austria the idea of sustainable building is almost exclusively linked to thermal insulation may hint on the prevalence of the respective industry.




Emergency Flats, dt.: Notfallswohnungen: (←Housing Policy)

Vienna: Some 2000 Flats, predominantly situated in municipal housing estates, to be assigned on short notice to persons in acute need. The individual requests are assessed according to a very strict set of conditions.


Funding Regulations, dt.: Förderbedingungen: (←Direct Subsidy)

Once housing objects are granted subsidies, they become subjects to a set of funding regulations. These funding regulations are an instrument for the public administration to actively influence the organization and design of socially bound housing production.
Vienna: Funding regulations set quality standards complementing and exceeding those of (→) building regulations. As an effect, the quality standards reached in subsidized housing are above those to be had in comparable free market segments.
Funding regulations also ensure the municipalities’ influence in the social fabric by assigning a share (an average of 30%) of the erected flats to the housing department for (→)  allocation of tenants.


Governmental Subsidies, dt.: Öffentliche Förderungen: (←Housing Politics)

As principal instruments of housing politics,  governmental subsidies aim at the financial promotion of housing matters. Directly distributed in the form of loans or payments  (→ Direct Subsidy) or indirectly in the form of tax reliefs (→ Indirect Subsidy)


Housing Allowances see: Subject Subsidies, dt.: Wohnbeihilfe, siehe: Subjektförderung

Housing Contractor Competition, also: Housing Developer Competition, dt.: Bauträgerwettbewerb: (← Promotion of Housing Construction)

Vienna: Procedure for the allocation of object subsidies obligatory to housing projects larger than 200 units. This competition asks developers to team up with architects and other planning experts in order to propose a housing project which, if successful is granted promotion and lot by the City. Submissions are judged by a jury identical to the (→) property advisory board along the criteria of 1.: planning qualities, 2.: costs, 3.: ecology and 4.: social sustainability. The developer competition was implemented in 1995 in order to introduce market elements to social housing while at the same time rising quality standards.
While the initially achieved cost-cutting effects seemed to have worn off in time, this tool is deemed particularly successful in introducing ecological sustainable housing production in Vienna at a comparably early date.

Housing Market, dt.: Wohnungsmarkt:

If the utopian “perfect market”, in which an “invisible hand” regulates pricing in a free interplay between supply and demand hardly ever fits reality, it does even less so in the real estate market and its housing sector. This market is affected by a series of specific limitations such as the immobility of its goods, an inhomogeneous character of its goods, an asymmetric flow of information between participants and blindness to social issues. Those shortcomings are dealt with in different (→) housing policies and (→) housing politics, leading to very different local market situations.
Vienna enjoys a comparably low average rent level (3,8 €/m2) with high quality standards (e.g.: 42 m2 of living space per capita).  These benefits are attributed to an (→) integrated market still in effect in Vienna.

Housing Policy, dt.: Wohnpolitik, auch: Wohnungspolitik:

Deals with shortcomings of the housing market. Its closely connected to what I call (→) housing politics here, but it is not restricted to government bodies,  – on the contrary, its stakeholders are widely spread in the field of (→) social housing and probably even beyond it.  As we still extend our focus, we have not yet defined the field’s borders nor found definitions, which would do that for us.

Housing Politics, dt.: Wohnpolitik, auch: Wohnungspolitik:

The term “housing politics” is not in common to the English language, still I make use of it to address what the German “Wohnungspolitik” encompasses. Here two sets of instruments are identified, which ensure direct access to the housing market for governmental bodies by means of (→) legislative regulation or public promotion in the form of (→) governmental subsidies. As is with (→) housing policy, housing politics’ purpose is to deal with the shortcomings of the (→) housing market.

Housing Research, dt.: Wohnbauforschung: (← Housing Policy)

Vienna: The City’s housing department (MA 50) maintains a housing research branch, which supports the respective City Councillors’ policies and decisions. This branch commissions research assignments on Viennese housing topics of mostly empirical nature and is itself quite active in an institutionalized international discourse. There are a number of private research institutes, which largely rely on commissions from within the housing system. Only rarely we came across academic research hosted by one of Vienna’s universities.

Housing Promotion, also Direct Subsidies, dt.: Wohnbauförderung, auch Direktförderung: (←Governmental Subsidies)

By actively promoting the production or renewal of housing (→) object subsidies or by supporting individuals to gain access to affordable housing (→) subject subsidies, communities try to influence the housing markets pricing and standards. Direct subsidies appear as assigned posts in budgetary plans and are easily traceable and ready subjects for public and political discussion.
Vienna / Austria: Vienna is part of Austria’s federal housing promotion program, which is financed at federal level by taxes (Contribution to Housing Promotion, dt.: Wohnbauförderungsbeitrag) and distributed by  the different federal states in the form of loans or grants. The City of Vienna maintains a mixed system of housing promotion with an emphasis on (→) object subsidies above (→) subject subsidies. Housing promotion is managed by the Municipal Department 50 (MA 50): Housing Promotion and Arbitration Board for Legal Housing Matters. Housing Promotion amounts to 1.2% of the Austrian BIP.


Indirect Subsidies, dt.: Indirekte Förderungen: (←Governmental Subsidies)

Indirect forms of subsidization such as tax relieves and capital allowances.

Integrated Market, dt.: integrierter Markt: (←Housing Market)

In an integrated market the social housing sector is able to compete for a broad range of consumers due to its large volume and the financial stability of its suppliers.
Vienna: For the sake of its large stock of (→) municipal housing and a continuous policy of (→) housing promotion, the City of Vienna is capable of maintaining an integrated market with a comparably low rent level.




Limited Profit Developers, dt.: Gemeinnützige Wohnbauträger: (← Social Housing)

Closely linked to the cooperative system, these developers provide socially bound housing at cost rent. While their strive for profit is legally restricted, they are subject to governmental control and benefit from inherent financial guarantees.
Vienna: Limited profit developers took over the task of producing affordable housing from the City and, with the implementation of the housing developers competition now have to compete with commercial developers for housing subsidies.


Modes of Subsidized Housing, dt.: Formen des geförderten Wohnbaus: (← Promotion of Housing Construction)

Vienna:  subsidized housing can take on one of these four modes: Flats for rent; Flats for rent with (→) superpromotion; Flats for rent with ownership option; (→) right to buy; Owner occupied flats

Public Housing, also: Municipal Housing, dt.: Gemeindeeigenes Wohnen, Wien: “Gemeindebau”: (← Social Housing)

Housing built, maintained and managed by public authorities in order to offer sufficient affordable housing quantities. Public housing is a historic model of housing policy that has long been abandoned in most places.
Vienna: Starting with the housing schemes of  “Red Vienna”, public housing was of pivotal importance not only to the City’s policy but also to popular perception. While itself abandoning the production of housing in the 1990′s (and handing it over to limited profit developers), the City resisted selling its housing stock and still has some 220.000 units at its disposition.



Object Subsidies, dt.: Objektförderung: (←Direct Subsidy)

Governmental subsidies granted for the (→) promotion of housing construction or the (→) promotion of housing renewal projects.
Vienna: the wohnfond_wien, a division of the city’s housing department is in charge of its administration.


Promotion of Housing Construction, dt.: Neubauförderung: (←Object Subsidy)

Vienna: Applicants have to apply to (→) funding regulations and above that to pass the City’s (→) property advisory board in order to be granted subsidies. Bigger projects are compulsory subject to a (→) housing developer competition. Nearly 90% of all housing erected in Vienna in the last couple of years has been subsidized.

Promotion of Housing Renewals, dt.: Sanierungsförderung: (←Object Subsidy)

Vienna: Since urban renewal became an acknowledged necessity in the 80s, a significant share of object subsidies flows into the renewal of housing stock.

Property Advisory Board, dt.: Grundstücksbeirat: ( ← Promotion of Housing Construction)

Vienna: This board was implemented as an instrument for quality management and is hosted by the wohnfond_wien (the body which administrates all object subsidies for the city). Any housing project applying for promotion has to pass this board, which also constitutes the housing developer competitions’ jury. It is composed of some 12 members from different fields (with the city’s representatives in minority), who are assigned for three years each.

Protection of Tenants, dt.: Mieterschutz: (← Regulative Instruments)

Legal regulation of the relations between tenant and landlord, comprising both, protection against eviction and rent price protection.
Vienna: From the social achievements of the 1920s on, tenancy protection has had a key role in Austrian housing politics. Following general tendencies, the tenancy law’s strength yielded under constant pressure for liberalization.



Regulative Instruments, dt.: Regulierungsinstrumente: (← Housing Politics)

Legislative tools at the hand of housing politics. For instance (→) building regulations that set minimal standards or the (→) protection of tenants.

Right to Buy, dt.: Mietkauf, Mietkaufrecht: (← Modes of Subsidized Housing)

Dwelling form that allows the tenant to buy the flat he inhabits as renter under certain circumstances.
Vienna: Promoted in the form of ownership options since the 1990s, this form of dwelling seems to be less attractive than elsewhere for tenants and developers alike. It is, however on offer as one of the (→) modes of subsidised housing.


Subject Subsidies, also: Housing Allowances, dt.: Subjektförderung, auch: Wohnbeihilfe: (← Direct Subsidies)

In difference to (→) object subsidies, housing allowances directly go to the individual applicant and serve to gap the difference between affordable housing expanses and market prices. Housing allowances are seen as precise and manageable tools, but they tend to deepen the overall effects of occurring economic crisis and they are considered to add to undesired social developments such as stigmatisation or the “poverty trap”.
Vienna relies on a mixed system of object and subject subsidies, in which the later plays a secondary role. In 2007, only 3-4% of all Austrian households obtained individual allowances. However, with the impact of the current financial crisis and the housing promotion budget cut at large, the proportion of subject subsidies is on the rise at the expense of object subsidies.

Superpromotion, dt.: Superförderung: (← Modes of Subsidized Housing)

Vienna: A mode of subsidisation that aims at providing housing to people with few financing options by reducing required capital and in turn increasing monthly rents.

Social Housing, dt.: Sozialer Wohnbau:

encompasses housing either directly owned and managed by the public authorities or housing which is socially bound in exchange for public subsidization of one form or other.
Vienna: With some 220.300 flats, the City of Vienna owns and manages a large stock of (→) public housing as an historical heritage (“Gemeindebau”). Together with some 168.300 subsidised flats (→ housing promotion) this amounts to 388.600 social housing units or 48% of all housing stock in Vienna.










key sources to this glossary:

Economic Commission for Europe UNECE, Guidelines on Social Housing, Principles and Examples (Geneva: United Nations, Economic Commission for Europe, 2006),  <http://www.unece.org>.

Wolfgang Amann and others, Der Soziale Wohnbau in Europa – Österreich Als Vorbild, ed by Klaus Lugger and Wolfgang Amann (Wien: IIBW– Institut für Immobilien, Bauen und Wohnen, 2006).

wohnfonds_wien, ‘Wohnfonds_wien Fonds Für Wohnbau Und Stadterneuerung’, 2010 <http://www.wohnfonds.wien.at/>.

Daniel Kamleitner and others, Wien, Die Städtische Bevölkerung Und Ihre Wohnversorgung, Städtebericht Wohnungspolitisches Monitoring, (Wien: Synthesis Forschung, 2007)

Herbert Ludl, Gemeinnützige Bauvereinigungen in Österreich (Wien: Österreichischer Verband gemeinnütziger Bauvereinigungen – Revisionsverband, 2007) <http://www.sozialbau.at>.