Skip navigation

About Austria

History

Erlaaerstraße

Erlaaerstraße

Back in the middle of the 19th century, housing reformers concerned by the distressing living conditions and the tremendous population growth paved the way for the birth of limited-profit housing associations. Since then housing and social issues have been linked together and co-operative initiatives from neighbouring countries were propagated in Austria. The oldest remaining active housing co-operative in Austria was founded in 1895. At that time, there was no state support for the co-operative movement either generally nor specifically for the housing sector. Housing co-operatives developed out of individual efforts to satisfy housing needs.

The first limited-profit housing development company was established in 1907 and still operates to this day. The Public Jubilee Fund “Kaiser Franz Joseph 1 Regierungs-Jubiläumsfonds established in 1908 by imperial sanction was the first public funding system of housing in Austria. Two years later the “Wohnungs-Fürsorgefonds”(Housing Welfare Funds) already had the essential components of actual Austrian housing policy, such as limited profit shares, reasonable rents, tying-up of assets and government auditing. From then on, state interventions took place for the benefit of the Austrian society.

Context

As a result of the long-term government support for housing, “every sixth inhabitant of Austria lives in an apartment built and/or managed by a limited-profit housing association today”. Two essential elements of the Austrian housing policy should be noted: state financial support and a competent and dedicated limited profit sector.

Constant government housing intervention is required in Austria. Even higher income families do not have the financial capacity to finance the buying of their dwelling over their active work life. For that reason, the Austrian government has set aside essential financing mechanisms and enacted legislation to regulate the security of tenure and rent control. These housing interventions address the needs of a broad spectrum of the population, larger than just low-income groups.

On the other hand, the Austrian government can count on a competent limited-profit sector that has built one fifth of the Austrian dwellings since 1945. The remarkable growth of the portfolio should be noted when compared with figures from 1970 when the Austrian housing co-operatives counted only 150,400 members.

Today housing development in Austria is going through several changes. The central state, previously distributing specific financial allocations for housing development, has changed its practice which has created uncertainty with respect to future development. The specific housing budget is now integrated in the general budget of the provinces leaving the latter to decide on how much they will spend on housing. Moreover the provinces are facing financial restrictions since the last economic and financial crisis as shown by a decrease of 25% of public funds allocated in 2010. Austria is nevertheless facing a very high housing demand due to a high level of immigration. It is clear that the Austrian housing development system will need to adapt to the new reality.

Description

Key characteristics of the Austria housing co-operatives are:

  • They build housing for rent or for sale (owner occupation) for their members. Activities of the housing co-operatives are limited. The assets are tied to housing projects and their own funds must be reinvested into the housing sector.
  • They must comply with a regular audit on effectiveness, economy and usefulness.
  • Limited-profit housing co-operatives (representing the majority of the federation), must comply with the Limited-Profit Housing Act regulations, which state:
    • Rents are fixed to cover the appropriate cost of land, construction, administration and financing. The rents include an amount dedicated for repairs and longterm maintenance. The rents charged must be justifiable and tenants and member-owners can request an assessment if in doubt over the appropriateness of the amount charged. Once the loans are repaid, the rents are regulated.
      • Sale price for owner-occupied dwellings is also regulated.
    • Member contribution in the case of withdrawal and liquidation is reimbursed at nominal value.
    • Profits are limited (ceiling for interest rates on own funds).
    • They have an obligation to build housing. They need explicit permission from the provincial government to interrupt their building activities.
    • Housing co-operatives must comply with an audit process that evaluates financial performance, profitability, management and compliance with obligations. Federal provinces approve the annual auditing report and define sanctions in the cases of non-compliance.
  • Housing co-operatives can have access to public financing for specific projects; about 90% of their projects are assisted by public means. The units allocated through these projects must comply with the obligations determined by the Housing Promotion Schemes which are:
    • Application of income limits for future tenants and owner-occupied members.
    • Allocation of some units to public authority referrals (some housing co-operatives).
  • Limited housing co-operatives are exempt from corporation tax (taxation on income).

Financing

In Austria, state intervention in housing development is significant. Public funds are available through an elaborate system of “Housing Promotion Schemes” whose goals are to ensure sufficient good quality housing, to provide investment capital and to make it affordable to people. The subsidies provided are direct object-specific, meaning that the financial assistance is given directly to the housing co-operatives and is geared towards the construction costs as opposed to the subject-specific subsidies, which are directed to individuals.

Financial assistance includes:

  • Long term and low interest rate public grants or mortgages that cover between 20% to 60% of the construction costs.
  • Annuity grants/loans granted either instead of the loan for the construction costs or in addition to such loan to reduce the repayments of mortgages.

Other assistance includes:

  • Housing allowances based on income and size of household. (Only 6% of households receive housing allowances in Austria – a very low figure compared to other European countries).
  • A homebuyer program is available to all individuals to help toward the acquisition of a dwelling of any type.

SozialBau; Spöttlgasse 7; Kinder;

Legal Framework

The legal instruments for the co-op housing sector are:

  • The Co-operative Act and the Act of Co-operatives’ Auditing (Revision) set the co-operative’ organisational rules, including their business conduct.
  • The Limited Profit Housing Act sets the regulations regarding the conduct of housing co-operatives that are registered as limited profit housing. The legislative framework falls under the Federal Government’s jurisdiction and the Provincial Governments are responsible for its execution. Specific guidelines for auditing, pricing, business conduct, financial statements are described in the several decrees pertaining to the Act.
  • The Housing Promotion Schemes impose rules to subsidised housing co-operatives.

The general housing legislation, as stipulated in the Rental Act and the Act of Home Ownership, also influence the housing co-operatives management as they regulate rental contracts, rights and obligations of landlords and tenants, shares, etc.

The Co-operative Housing Movement

In Austria, the non-profit housing sector, whether housing co-ops or limited-profit companies, are united under one single organisation, the Austrian Federation of Limited-Profit Housing Associations – Auditing Federation (GBV). Their membership in the federation is mandatory. GBV membership, which totals 193 members and includes 795,000 housing units (rental and owner occupied), represents 18% of the total housing stock and 33% of the total multi-family-housing stock in Austria.

The organisational structure includes provincial groups with an advisory function, an executive board of 4 persons that governs the day-to-day business, a supervisory board where each provincial group is represented, a conference of 53 delegates and the annual federal convention. The federation is an independent organisation from the state and it plays three roles: member representation, advocacy and auditing.

For more information, visit: www.gbv.at  (German and some information in English)

Members in Austria

Österreichischer Verband Gemeinnütziger Bauvereinigungen – Revisionsverband / Austrian Federation of Limited-Profit Housing Associations

Resources Tagged "Austria"

Resosurces images

Towards the Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals

The Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments prepared a report showcasing how cities and regions are fostering alternative housing policies to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. With increased urbanization, ...Read More

Advocacy Global
Resosurces images

World Habitat Awards 2017 – Winners and Finalists

As part of our collaboration with urbaMonde, we would like to highlight this years World Habitat Awards.  They tell some fantastic stories of what has been achieved globally to create safe homes where people can live free from t ...Read More

Community Global
Resosurces images

The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade and its Special Application to the Housing Sector

The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade is a worldwide campaign to “take the co-operative way of doing business to a new level”. The five key elements of the Blueprint are participation, sustainability, identity, legal frameworks and capital. The Blueprint is particularly relevant to co-operative housing and the Blueprint interpretation for co-operative housing below explains how.Read More

Governance Global
Resosurces images

The Co-operative Housing International Good Governance Test

The purpose of the Governance Test is to provide a means for housing co-ops affiliated to CHI to measure their standards of governance and to help them develop a good governance action plan to improve governance in weaker areas.  ...Read More

Governance Global
Resosurces images

Students and Housing Cooperatives

Student housing cooperatives have become very popular in the USA and many of these housing co-operatives are members of organizations such as NASCO. Unlike a resident who acquires shares at market rates to earn the right to occupy ...Read More

Community Global
Resosurces images

Building Strong Development Cooperation: Partnership Opportunities between Cooperatives and the EU

In 2000, United Nations (UN) member states recognised the need to build global partnerships for development and the exchange of expertise as one of the Millennium Development Goals. Across the international development field, part ...Read More

Financing and Development Global
Resosurces images

Sustainable Use of Forests: an Urgent Global Challenge

The unsustainable exploitation of our planet’s forests is a major contributor to global warming and threatens the future of humanity. Co-operative Housing International believes that the co-operative family has a role to play to prevent the ongoing degradation of the forests and is calling all co-operatives to support its Sustainable Management Forest Initiative.Read More

Sustainability Global
Resosurces images

Raising Capital: The Capital Conundrum for Co-operatives

New report: The Capital Conundrum for Co-operatives "The Capital Conundrum for Co-operatives", a new report released by the Alliance’s Blue Ribbon Commission explores ideas and options available to co-operatives that need suitab ...Read More

Financing and Development Global
Resosurces images

Financing Housing Co-operatives in a Credit Crunch

Financing the development of housing co-operatives is a challenge and more so in time of financial restrictions and uncertainty.  CHI members discussed the issue during a seminar held in November 2009 in Geneva.  Presentations w ...Read More

Financing and Development Global
Resosurces images

The Guidance Notes on the Co-operative Principles

Updated Guidance Notes on the Co-operative Principles, edited by David Rodgers, former President of Co-operative Housing InternationalRead More

Governance Global
Resosurces images

Promoting Cooperatives – International Labour Organization (ILO) Recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Cooperatives

The ILO views cooperatives as important in improving the living and working conditions of women and men globally as well as making essential infrastructure and services available even in areas neglected by the state and investor-driven enterprises. Cooperatives have a proven record of creating and sustaining employment – they provide over 100 million jobs today; they advance the ILO’s Global Employment Agenda and contribute to promoting decent work.Read More

Legal Global
Resosurces images

What’s new in Sustainable Forest Management?

 The Forest Products Annual Market Review 2013 reports that the development of new refinement processes has led to the production of new and more affordable wood based products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT). The report sta ...Read More

Sustainability Global
Resosurces images

Profiles of a Movement: Co-operative Housing around the World – Volume One

This first volume includes the co-operative housing profile of 22 countries. This report presents the history and the current realities of co-operative housing around the world.  CHI is currently in the process of updating the ...Read More

Community Global
Resosurces images

Profiles of a Movement: Co-operative Housing around the World – Volume Two

Volume 2 of the Profiles of a Movement concentrates on the African continent. We are pleased to present the remarkable work achieved by the African co-operators, work accomplished in a very challenging environment. These profil ...Read More

Community Global
Resosurces images

Environment Sustainability and Climate Change Seminars

To further our commitment towards sustainable sources of timber and forest products and to provide co-operators more information on the certification programmes and successful sustainable initiatives, CHI organized a seminar on S ...Read More

Sustainability Global
Resosurces images

Housing Co-operatives and Climate Change

ICA members adopted a resolution at the 2007 General Assembly calling on the co-operative movement to do its share in combating climate changes. The resolution suggests three ways on how the co-op movement can act now: Measure and ...Read More

Sustainability Global
Resosurces images

Legal Frameworks for Housing Co-operatives: Seminars

As part of CHI's plan to map its activities to the International Co-operative Alliance's Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, CHI held a seminar on one of the Blueprint elements:  Legal Frameworks for Housing Co-operatives. “Co ...Read More

Legal Global
Resosurces images

Good Governance Charter for Housing Co-operatives

 The Good Governance Charter for Housing Co-operatives was launched at the ICA Housing Plenary in Manchester in November 2012.It has three parts:A 10-point set of good governance practicesAn interpretive statement for each good p ...Read More

Governance Global
Resosurces images

Financing and Climate Change Seminars

Seminars about continued public sector investment in co-operative housing in Austria and Canada, innovative funding arrangements created by the co-operative housing sector in Italy and harnessing member investment through co-opera ...Read More

Financing and Development Global
back to top