Vienna promises housing service improvement

Michael Ludwig has vowed to improve the quality of services to people living in social housing flats in Vienna.

The Viennese Social Democratic (SPÖ) housing councillor told the Kurier newspaper today (Thurs) his department recently raised the number of advice and information checkpoints situated at community housing complexes to 100 in the past months. He vowed to keep a closer eye on the speed and quality of products and services provided by private firms assigned by the city of Vienna.

Ludwig promised to ensure that companies asked to carry out services like cleaning and removing snow at social blocks of flats worked on time. He said it must not happen anymore that the companies carried out orders received by others more quickly than tasks they were asked to do by his department. The housing councillor revealed that his office assigned private facility management services 360,000 times a year.

Wiener Wohnen, the outsourced housing firm managed by Ludwig’s section in the city coalition of SPÖ and Greens, manages 220,000 apartments. The housing councillor controversially ordered the installation of surveillance cameras at apartment blocks owned by the city around three years ago. Ludwig said in September that 2,769 cameras had been set up so far. He also explained that the plan was to install another 100.

The Viennese branch of the SPÖ decided to launch the project to raise the feeling of security among tenants in times of rising crime. Ludwig claimed that the plan turned out to be a success. He said that especially the number of cases of wilful damage to property had dropped considerably due to the presence of cameras. The councillor added that graffiti offences were less likely in monitored areas too.

The initiative was widely considered as an attempt to challenge the increasingly popular Freedom Party (FPÖ). The right-wing movement won almost 26 per cent in the most recent city parliament election, up from 15 per cent in 2005. The SPÖ suffered a loss of 4.8 per cent as its share dropped to 44.3 per cent.

SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl recently said he intended to raise the city’s service quality further to prove the FPÖ wrong in its populist accusations. Ludwig told the Kurier today his target was to satisfy residents of Vienna. “Content citizens are the most effective weapon against populists,” the councillor said.

Ludwig is seen as a possible successor to Häupl as head of the Viennese SPÖ. Financial Affairs Councillor Renate Brauner has also been given good chances to take over in some years for some time before a number of controversial investment decisions and the city’s rising debts increased the pressure on her. Experts think that the SPÖ will not risk nominating Brauner due to her recent decrease in reputation. Health Councillor Sonja Wehsely could succeed Häupl as well, according to observers. However, Wehsely is also said to be interested in becoming federal health minister after the next general ballot.