The Rising Cost of Living in the World’s Most Livable City

Rents for private housing in Vienna are becoming increasingly less affordable, a new TU study finds.

A recent TU Wien (Technical University of Vienna) report examining trends in Vienna’s private housing market has found that the share of affordable rental apartments has significantly decreased since 2011. After analyzing 10,300 real-estate advertisements posted on between 2011 and 2019, researchers found that while low-income households have struggled for years, finding affordable housing is increasingly felt by middle-income households as well. 

Defining “affordability” as no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly income, the TU’s Mietmonitor (rent monitor) found that even those earning around the national average can only afford apartments on the city’s outskirts. An interactive rent tracking system, The Mietmonitor allows you to input your monthly income and see a map of Vienna showing where you are most likely to find an apartment. “Most people can’t afford to be picky about their flat’s location,” says Justin Kadi, a housing researcher who worked on the project.

The TU’s study also indicated a sharp decline in affordability since 2011. For example, a single-person household – which are most affected by rising rents – could afford around 27 percent of listings in the 2nd district between 2011 and 2013, a number that fell to a little over 10 percent by 2019. Living space for an average household by district also varied sharply: For instance, the average single-person household in the 6th district is about 24 square meters, while a flat for a comparable price in the 23rd would be 33 square meters. 

More troubling is the fact that the average living space for one person is 29 square meters in Vienna as a whole – yet city building regulations prescribe a minimum of 30 square meters for one-person households, raising the question of whether current legislation intended to cap rents in Altbauten (old buildings) is indeed being enforced. 

The COVID Factor

The data collected by the study doesn’t go beyond 2019, so how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the market is a matter of speculation. Nevertheless, we are already starting to see the effects of the past year, with 17,000 people in Austria currently facing eviction. A law allowing tenants to defer rent payments from the second quarter of 2020 to a later date expired in March, meaning that those in arrears will have to balance their accounts as well as keep up with current bills – a challenge for many amid Kurzarbeit and record unemployment caused by the pandemic. 

It should be noted that the TU’s study only takes rents in the private sector into account, which only constitutes 40 percent of the real estate industry in Vienna: Most available apartments are a part of social housing projects with controlled rents. 

That is little consolation for recent arrivals from within Austria or abroad, however, as Gemeindewohnungen (social housing) only become available after residing in Vienna for at least five years. If current trends continue, newcomers will soon be completely relegated to the city’s periphery, if they manage to find accommodation at all.

Bogdan Brkić
Originally from southern Serbia, he moved to Vienna in 2013 to study German Philology. He is an aspiring journalist whose passions include history, music and French pastries.

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