"Tens of thousands of private apartments in Austria are empty because their owners are not renting them out," the FPÖ’s housing councillor Manfred Haimbuchner said at a press conference in Linz.
He wants the government to cut the amount of tax property owners have to pay on rental properties, claiming that it is putting prospective landlords off. Currently, property owners must pay ten percent tax on any rent they make.
Haimbuchner also said that strict tenancy laws mean that landlords with problem tenants, who fail to pay their rent on time, often find it very hard to evict them.
However, the managing director of the Tenants' Association of Upper Austria, Sonja Toifl-Campregher, said it would be "absolute madness" to try and undermine tenants’ rights any further. Landlords already have the possibility of limiting leases to three years, she said.
The majority of tenants in Austria look for a lease of at least ten years, or an unlimited lease, which is becoming rarer. If tenants do fall into rent arrears they can be evicted, but it can take several months and involves taking them to court.
Toifl-Campregher said that Linz does not have a big problem with vacant apartments, but in Vienna she said there are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 vacant apartments - including some council properties.
Haimbuchner and Toifl-Campregher agreed that an increasing number of vacant apartments is one of the reasons behind rising rents. "Many homes are simply removed from the market because of this," Haimbuchner said.