Innsbruck declares a “housing emergency”

Innsbruck declares a “housing emergency”

The city can now trigger a 50-year-old law, which would give authorities the right to intervene in the housing market, and even expropriate property

Yesterday, after a vote in the municipal council, the Austrian city of Innsbruck declared a ‘Housing emergency‘. With the new declaration, the authorities will have the right to use the Land Protection Act (Bodenbeschaffungsgesetz), forgotten legislation, which would give local government the power to intervene directly in housing market.

The rights granted by the Land Protection Act range from the right of first refusal for land transactions to expropriation, in its most extreme form. The law is in the books since 1974however, he has never been usedwhich means that whatever Innsbruck decides to do with its newfound power would create a previous.

The housing shortage in Innsbruck

The Land Protection Act was first introduced in 1974, during the second Austrian term Socialist Prime Minister Bruno Kreisky, when the SPÖ had a majority in government. Kreisky was Austria’s longest-serving Chancellor. He began his first term in 1970 and ended his last term in 1983.

According to a report from ORF, them Austrian National Broadcasting Networkthe question of the use of the land protection law was raised by the SPÖ of Innsbruck, which is currently a coalition partner of the green mayor of the city – Georg Willi.

The Land Protection Act, however, cannot be triggered on a whim, there must be an “extreme quantitative need for housing”. To declare a housing emergency, at least 2% of the population must be registered as looking for accommodation and recognized as being in need by local housing authorities, with no more social housing available.

Currently, according to official data, there are approximately 2,000 requests for social housingaccounting 4,300 people – well above the 2% threshold set at around 2,000 people.

Importantly, the housing problem in Innsbruck is not new and the government has tried to introduce measures to calm the market and boost social housing. They have also tried to introduce a tax on vacant homes and to reduce the number of Airbnb eat rental properties in the city. However, these policies seem to have missed the mark.

Intervention in the real estate market

Although the Land Protection Act allows the local government to interfere quite deeply with the real estate market, there are certainly lines the city is unwilling to cross. According to a statement by Deputy Mayor Markus Lassenbergerexpropriation is certainly part of it.

In addition, according to the Land Protection Law, citizens whose property has been expropriateddeserve monetary compensation and it is not something that a cash-strapped municipality could do on a large scale.

At the same time, as the Land Protection Act has not been used since its inception in the 1970s, authorities expect to struggle to enforce any intervention. Officials said they must come up with a concrete action plan as they expect citizens to challenge any decision based on the law in court.

However, the local government plans to use the Right of first refusal, meaning they can veto certain land deals. This applies specifically to properties larger than 2,000 square meters, which are intended for construction. Currently, the city has already identified 80 caseswhere they are eligible for intervention.

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