By Matthias Loinig
The year 2013 is going to start off an expensive one for more than 2,500 people living in Vienna housing associations.
The reason is that building contracts that were signed 60 years ago will run out from the end of 2012.
Many of the buildings were built in the 1920s when there was widespread homelessness which resulted in the city of Vienna coming up with the idea of the genossenschaft – or housing co-operatives.
The first genossenschaft were built in 1922. A lottery was held to decide who would get the first properties. And by 1932 the first rental contracts between the community of Vienna and the newly founded housing co-operatives was signed.
These contracts were extended in 1962 and they now run out in 2012.
That means that people living in a housing co-operative are facing massive price rises under the new contracts.
The man in charge of the association “MGSSVÖ” that is fighting against the increases is Franz Xaver Ludwig.
He argues that the older housing cooperatives were effectively built by the former owners who finance them and then through their descendants investment and hard work were bought to the position that they are now in.
This was often done with private credits that still have many years to pay.
He said it was unfair that rents were often compared with other rental contracts were those staying there lived in new flats which they did not build themselves, which they had not financed themselves and which they had never renovated and in addition for which there were often given subsidies so that they could afford them.
Lawyer and rent expert Dr.Thomas Würzl said: “It is worth noting the side letter to the new building contracts. Under these the housing associations are obliged to do everything in their power to make sure the new higher rates apply to everyone in the housing association. That means anybody that doesn’t agree will be forced to move out.”
According to the documents seen by the Austrian Times – the price increases are ‘not allowed’ and are ‘not agreed upon’ and are against everything the principal of the housing co-operatives stand for.
City council officials meanwhile have said they do not understand why there is a problem over the increased rates and are pressing ahead with the plans.