Written by Kyla Tanner
May 13, 2019
Affordable housing quickly became my primary research interest after I began my Master’s degree at Queen’s University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) in Fall 2018. With an increasing number of Canadians paying too much for housing, there is a role for urban planners to contribute to the amount of affordable housing stock while creating positive and healthy spaces for people to live.
Prior to my studies at Queen’s University, I worked in Ottawa with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada for more than three years, where I completed performance audits relating to environmental issues. This related well to my Master in Environmental Studies degree, however, while working on these reports I was inspired by work at the municipal level and chose to further my education and transition my career to the community level. I consider Ottawa my home and am happy to be living in the city for the summer.
Over the summer months SURP students have the opportunity to work in the field of urban planning, complementing our studies with work experience. Many positions are within municipal departments or higher levels of government. I became familiar with Cahdco’s work throughout my studies, viewing them as a leader in the field, and was drawn to work with a team that has a reputation for being enthusiastic about creating affordable housing.
In addition to course work, independent research, and the summer work experience, SURP has an award for international travel that supports three students’ brief research projects abroad. This takes place between students’ first and second year of study. My proposal to look at subsidized housing in Vienna, Austria was one of the proposals awarded funding
Vienna boasts 60 per cent of its 1.8 million people live in subsidized housing and Canadian cities have shown interest in its model. Subsidized housing became a part of Vienna’s identity in 1919 when the Social Democratic Worker’s Party of Austria implemented a luxury tax, which included real estate development, and subsequently purchased and developed land itself. This time period is known as ‘Red Vienna’. During this time, the city erected 60,000 apartments for low-income populations. One hundred years later, the city of Vienna continues to prioritize development of subsidized housing and has the support of residents. In April 2019, I had the opportunity to look at five housing developments ranging from completion in 1930 to projected completion in 2019. Additionally, I was able to meet with a municipal urban planner for a tour of some of the developments.
Karl-Marx Hof is an iconic housing development in Vienna, completed in 1930, during the Red Vienna time period. Karl-Marx Hof is a one kilometre in length linear development with large courtyards and parks located centrally all along the buildings. There are 1,382 residential units as well as laundromats, baths, kindergartens, a library, doctor offices, and business offices. It is located next to both a metro stop and a bus station.
Alt-Erlaa was completed in 1985 and consists of six 23 to 27 storey buildings. It was controversial in terms of its size and design, but residents living in the 3,172 units love living there, reflected in the low vacancy rate of the buildings and low turn-over. I spoke with a woman who has lived in a unit since its construction and has numerous friends that have done the same. Every unit has a private balcony and roof top pools are located on each building. The site includes a church, kindergartens, numerous gardens and playgrounds, a small shopping centre, and a metro station.
Kabelwerk was completed in 2010 and has 1,320 units in total. The project has been lauded for its cooperative planning process that included strong involvement from residents. It is located on the site of a cable factory that was in operation from 1897-1997, which employed many of the nearby residents. The factory’s closure hit residents hard, resulting in apprehension of new development. Two of the former industrial buildings were restored, one of which was used to host theatre productions and art exhibitions. There is a metro station adjacent to the site and the entire area is car-free. A variety of building forms make up Kabelwerk, including: subsidized rental units, subsidized home ownership, assisted housing, apartments for refugees, and temporary housing.
In Der Wiesen Süd was completed in 2017. “In Der Wiesen” translates to “In the Garden”. It has 156 residential units across five buildings. This area was a neglected part of suburban Vienna, offering great opportunity to increase density, particularly due to proximity to a metro station. There are numerous parks throughout the development that connect to one another and balconies face onto the park space.
In Der Wiesen Ost is still under construction with scheduled completion in 2019. There are to be 172 units in total, each with a balcony and planters for urban gardening. Additionally, the outdoor space will include gardening opportunities for the tenants, including green roofs. The interior streets are devoted to pedestrians and it is located within walking distance of a metro station.
A key lesson from the urban planner I met with was that Viennese urban planners place emphasis on six considerations when developing subsidized housing, outlined below. These were developed by the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) Working Party on Multifunctional and Intensive Land Use (MILU).
I am grateful for the opportunities I have received thus far to further my knowledge and experience with the provision of affordable housing and am looking forward to learning much more during my time with Cahdco this summer.
May 13, 2019