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    Balancing Sustainability and Affordability in Regional Housing

    IRE Expert Conference on Sustainable and Affordable Housing:


    The population worldwide is growing and Austria expects one million more inhabitants by 2050. The reason is not only the slight increase in birth rates but also migration.  Housing is a fundamental right guaranteeing home to every person. Hence, the housing policy needs to be adapted to the fast changing society structure with more single households, nursing facilities for elderly people and higher equipment standards.

     “All these developments cause challenges for the economy and politics. Regions and cities are key stakeholders in the field of housing and need to set up a variety of modern, flexible, sustainable and affordable housing models for the future”, said IRE-chairman Franz Schausberger at the opening of the IRE expert conference.

    Many families decide to live in the suburban areas which makes the availability and affordability of the land scarce and expensive, explained Johannes Ebner, mayor of Hallwang a town near Salzburg. Furthermore, a good public transportation system and a broadband internet access are two important factors for families who move to the rural areas. The challenge is to offer a quiet and green environment with flawless infrastructure. 

    “Many people commute to the city centers every day, which makes subsidized housing and a sustainable mobility plan go hand in hand”, agreed Hans Mayr, Salzburg state minister for infrastructure and housing. The Region of Salzburg has lately worked intensively on a new housing reform to guarantee liquidity for housing subsidies. The reform will also include new housing designs such as starter apartments for young people with small income. The state government tries to implement the new concept without allowing for new debt.


    Housing subsidies is not common in all European countries, explained Susanne Bauer, chairwoman of the Eurocities Working Group Housing.  The average construction cost has increased by 46% in the past 10 years to over 2,000 Euros per square meter which makes subsidies so important. Moreover, subsidies not only benefit the tenant but also secure jobs and promote the construction industry. Vienna has developed a new housing policy offering small-scale units which are compact, cost-effective and flexible. Today, one third of all subsidized apartments in Vienna are “smart”. The Austrian housing system is well-structured which dates back to the 1980s, when Austria did not follow the trend to sell real estate´s on the free market but restructured and extended the promotion of housing and housing subsidies, explained Wolfgang Amann, Director of the Institute for Real Estate, Construction and Housing in Vienna. The federal government has achieved to establish a system with great benefits for today´s circumstances.


    However, offering non-profit housing and investing in modern and efficient construction measures while the at the same time considering the high land prices is an additional challenge for the housing business in Salzburg, said Christian Wintersteller, chairman of the Public Housing Association in Salzburg. The land prices in Salzburg have risen by 123% in the period from 2001 to 2011. Martin Clemens Weber from the Erste Bank AG, added that an efficient financial system for housing is significant and financial support is offered at European level. The European Investment Bank, for example, provides for long-term funds with fixed interest rates.


    The Austrian company GAP solution GmbH wants to achieve a balance between sustainability and affordability for housing construction. Johann Aschauer, managing director of GAP solution GmbH, presented the project “The House” which supplies the household with clean energy not using fossil fuels. It consists of a sustainable, ecological wood construction and a respiratory active facade with a honeycomb technology. “The house” has a positive energy balance which is generated from water heating, heat recovery and solar energy. Approximately 2000 houses have been modernized or newly built with the solar honeycomb technology.


    Affordability is the trademark of NEUE HEIMAT TIROL. Managing director Klaus Lugger condemns the high prices for rent and demands a 20%-limit for rent according to the personal income of the tenant. NEUE HEIMAT TIROL is one of the leading property developers and property management companies in Western Austria. As a consultant and problem solver in residential construction projects, NEUE HEIMAT TIROL offers its services to all Tyrolean municipalities and institutions. High value is placed on cost-oriented architecture, high living quality and increased environmental consciousness.

    Another best-practice example is the KlimaHaus Agency Bolzano, a public institution of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano for the energetic certification of buildings. To date, it has certified almost 7,000 buildings in Italy alone. The KlimaHaus agency is committed to the training and further education of all actors involved in construction. It promotes initiatives to raise awareness among the population on energy efficiency, sustainability and climate change. Energy efficiency requires a combination of several actors: builders, planners, building contractors and building materials traders, as well as research, training and development, politics, administration and service. “This is the only way we can save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the building sector”, explained Stefan Walder, from the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. The advantages of KlimaHaus speak for themselves: greatly reduced heating costs, healthy and comfortable living while at the same time increasing the value of the property.

    “Energy Efficiency plays a crucial role, also in the housing business”, said Josef Schwaiger, Salzburg state minister for energy. A constant development of energy efficient methods will improve sustainable living. Furthermore, less land is being built on in Salzburg, which already shows the positive effects of the coherent land and housing policy that the regional government is currently optimizing. Housing policy is in constant development in which a variety of aspects need to be considered: changing society structures, efficient technology, affordability and many actors who have their part in this process.

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