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Is Salzburg going through a housing emergency?

The Local Austria
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Is Salzburg going through a housing emergency?
Salzburg is a beautiful city with many attractions (Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash)

Homes - even rentals - are becoming a luxury item in Austria's Salzburg city, where authorities are debating declaring a 'housing emergency'

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As the Salzburg regional election day approaches near the end of April, one topic seems to be brought more and more to the headlines: the housing crisis in the province. 

According to a study by the Salzburg Institute for Regional Planning (SIR), housing costs account for 44 percent of household income on average. In the last state election in 2018, people were still spending 36 percent of their income; in 2015, it was 29 percent. 

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For this reason, Salzburg KPÖ municipal councillor Kay-Michael Dankl submitted a motion at Wednesday's municipal council meeting to declare a housing emergency based on the Innsbruck model, the newspaper Der Standard reported. 

READ ALSO: READERS REVEAL: Is Salzburg a nice place to live?

Dankl, who is also running for the KPÖ in the state parliamentary elections on April 23, wants to reactivate the 40-year-old Land Acquisition Act, which gives municipalities a right of first refusal on large, undeveloped plots of land.

What is the Innsbruck model?

In Innsbruck, the municipal council declared a housing emergency last July at the request of the SPÖ with the support of most parties. So far, however, nothing is in place as the city waits for the province to issue a specific decree allowing it to have pre-emption rights for all undeveloped plots of land with an area of more than 2,000 square metres that have been designated as building land. 

In the Tyrolean capital, 80 plots of land would be eligible for this.

In Salzburg, the Green Citizens' List and the SPÖ supported the motion. However, the political majority of ÖVP, FPÖ and Neos were against it. The decision on whether to declare a state of emergency was postponed for the time being. 

Currently, around 5,000 people in the city of Salzburg are registered with the magistrate as looking for housing.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: How to explore Salzburg in one weekend

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How bad is the situation in Salzburg?

Currently, 1,557 people in Salzburg are affected by an acute housing shortage, as shown by the current housing needs survey. This means that they are either homeless, have no place to live and are staying with institutions, friends or boarding house rooms, or are affected by an unacceptable housing situation. 

After a decline during the pandemic, the number of people affected is now back at the high level of 2018, with 411 people homeless, having to spend the nights outdoors or in an emergency shelter. Financial or family problems are the most common reasons people suddenly find themselves without a home.

The number of minors is high, Der Standard added. The Forum for Assistance to the Homeless already warned of the dramatic development last year. The numbers have risen again since then, from 277 to 371 children and young people affected by housing needs. Thirty-six of them are homeless. 

READ ALSO: Property in Austria: Can I still buy a holiday home in Salzburg?

"These children and young people have worse chances than others right from the start," Petra Geschwendtner of the Forum Homeless Assistance told the newspaper. If no countermeasures are taken, poverty will take root long-term. 

"These children, therefore, need to be helped out of this situation as soon as possible so that they do not continue to be deprived of their developmental and educational opportunities," Geschwendtner added.

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