In recent years, prices have steadily been rising on the Viennese housing market. This is caused by rising demands due to population growth in the city, but also by the drive towards investment, labelled with the term “concrete gold”. This development has in turn led to an enormous boom in the building industry during these last years and furthermore to a change in the ‘stock city’ hailing from the Founders’ Period (Gründerzeit, 1840–1918). Residential buildings from this period, also called Zinshäuser (historic tenement houses) are being torn down and replaced with new buildings. Alternatively, the old stock is being converted, so that affordable rental units are turned into expensive private property. In Austrian property law, this process is known as legal conversion (Parifizierung). One consequence of the conversion process is that the demolition of buildings from this important period in architectural history is now being slowed down. Another consequence is that the affordable private rental segment that was previously strongly regulated by Austrian Tenancy Law (Mietrechtsgesetz, MRG) is all but disappearing on the Viennese market.
Aim and Research Questions
The aim of the research project is to capture and explain the spatial patterns of this transformation during 2007–2019. It furthermore wishes to explore the profiles of the actors involved in the change. This will not only provide a better comprehension of current developments in the Gründerzeit segment of the property market, but also contribute to current international debates over gentrification and financialisation on urban residential markets. The project represents a first-ever attempt at identifying the hotspots of transformation on the Viennese residential market according to quantitative criteria. It will thus also attempt to determine whether gentrification is taking place in Vienna, and if it were the case, it will provide insight into its local forms and structures.
We have thus identified the following research questions:
What pattern does the transformation of the Gründerzeit housing stock follow in Vienna? Which factors may be responsible for this dynamics?
Who are the actors (developers, international investors, banks, construction firms) behind this transformation?
What are the implications of this transformation for the social structure of neighbourhoods particularly affected by this process? How does it influence the usage of ground floor zones and public space in these areas?
We address the research questions by means of different quantitative and qualitative methods. Using publicly accessible data on the building stock of Vienna as a point of departure, along with land register entries and on-site surveys, we are able to locate the Zinshäuser concerned and identify the dynamics of change. Socio-spatial data serves to interpret the spatial transformation processes in a next step of our research. This forms the basis for qualitative surveys on site, which will improve our understanding of the transformation processes and their effects on the respective neighbourhoods.
A Zinshaus can be defined as follows: It is a residential building that was constructed before 1919, that contains more than two apartments and has not undergone a legal conversion (i.e. renewed, sub-divided, and re-sold). The “disappearance” of these buildings – either through demolition or through legal conversion – is the central indicator for the transformation of the building stock from the Gründerzeit.