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Austria looking to cut energy bills in old residential buildings

The Austrian government is planning to reduce gas bills for people who rent Altbau apartments, one of the measures to cushion rising prices.

Vienna altbau old building
Gas could be getting cheaper in Austrian Altbau buildings (Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash)

Austria has plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating could be implemented after the idea was floated by Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens), broadcaster ORF reported.

READ ALSO: ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

“The tenants get a high bill but have zero leeway to change their heating system themselves,” Kogler told Austrian media.

Austria’s ÖVP leading party said there is “no ban on thinking” and any idea should be debated and evaluated.

The old residential apartments have a central heating system and tenants cannot adjust it themselves. At the same time, Kogler wants to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems.

Opposition parties divided

The SPÖ is in favour of the measures, while right-wing FPÖ says they make “tenancy law even more confusing”.

Unsurprisingly, the landowners’ association (ÖHGB) said they saw Kogler’s proposal as impractical populism. Furthermore, they complain that changing the heating source is not an easy matter in Austria, where many options, such as heat pumps or district heating, are not available everywhere.

READ ALSO: Where are energy prices going up (again) in Austria?

There are currently around 250,000 apartments in Altbau buildings, most of them in the capital Vienna, and heated with gas.

Rising energy prices

The costs of gas (and electricity) are increasing in Austria, as The Local reported. State-run distributors EVN and Wien Energie announced earlier this month that prices were set to go up as of September.

In Lower Austria, around 50 percent of EVN consumers should expect to pay at least €100 more monthly. The hike will affect those on a “classic tariff”.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

At Wien Energie, electricity prices will go up by €36 a month (based on an annual consumption of 2,000 kWh), and gas prices will increase by €60 a month (based on 8,000 kWh). However, those with a price guarantee or floating tariff will not be affected.

Austria is looking to cushion the increasing costs for its population and is working on an electricity price cap. Earlier this year, the government sent out €150 energy vouchers people could use to get a discount on their yearly energy bills.

Regionally, similar measures have already been taken, especially in Lower Austria, where a €250 million funding plan was recently announced.

Vienna has announced an extensive package with one-off payments of €200 and structural measures that will benefit more than one million residents in the Austrian capital, as The Local reported.

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Reader question: I’ve received my Austrian Klimabonus as a voucher, now what?

Austria's federal government is sending out €500 payments directly to the bank accounts of millions of people, but many have been getting vouchers. Here's what to do with them.

Reader question: I've received my Austrian Klimabonus as a voucher, now what?

With rising inflation, mainly due to the increasing energy costs, people in Austria have seen their salaries purchasing less and less. Because of that, the federal government announced a €6 billion package with assistance, tax cuts and one-off payments.

The main (and somewhat controversial) payment is the so-called “climate bonus and anti-inflation payment”, better known as Klimabonus in Austria. Residents of the country will receive €500 to help cushion the effects of climbing prices. Minors are entitled to half that amount.

The only criterium is that the recipient must have lived in Austria for at least 181 days in 2022 to be eligible for the payment. It doesn’t matter your nationality or employment status – if you have spent six months legally in 2022 in the country, you will get the money.

READ ALSO: When will Austria make the €500 anti-inflation payment and how do I get it?

Money vs voucher

The main difference between recipients is that some will receive the money automatically in their bank accounts and others will get a mailed voucher.

If your bank data is up to date with Austria’s financial institution FinanzAMT on their FinanzOnline portal, you should receive the payment straight to your account. If not, they will mail you the Klimabonus voucher via a secure letter – meaning you need to be at home to sign for it.

READ ALSO: How could Austria’s new electricity price brake benefit you?

There is also an option to have someone else sign the letter for you via a power of attorney form. You can read more about it here.

Once the voucher arrives and you sign for it, you need to redeem it. After that, it’s possible to use them in hundreds of locations, including supermarkets, bookshops and bookshops to thousands of stores.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

You can check the nearest location that will accept your vouchers here.

Additionally, you can trade your vouchers (they come as ten €50 vouchers) for cash on the official Bank99, which is the bank owned by the Austrian Post and that can be found in hundreds of the Postal Service’s branches.

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