Housing

Austria

Country Report: Housing Last updated: 25/04/22

Author

Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

Refugees are entitled to Basic Care in the first 4 months after the recognition of their status.[1] After this period, they have access to the general welfare system and can obtain basic care and social assistance similarly to any other Austria citizen. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have no temporal limit on receiving Basic Care but are excluded from the general welfare system. The only precondition is need.

Basic Care is organised accommodation in inns, boarding houses, reception centres of NGOs or of the respective federal province, or a rent subsidy when an asylum seeker rents a flat him or herself. The prevailing form of Basic Care is organised accommodation, except for Vienna where private accommodation prevails (see Reception Conditions: Forms and Levels).

As of 31 December 2021, a total of 1,980 refugees and 7,498 beneficiaries of subsidiary protection received Basic Care, of which 68 %% resided in Vienna (compared to 67% in 2020):

Beneficiaries of international protection in Basic Care: 31 December 2021
Province / Federal centre Refugee status Subsidiary protection Total
Burgenland 22 69 91
Carinthia 58 185 243
Lower Austria 222 282 504
Upper Austria 255 413 668
Salzburg 65 158 223
Styria 82 356 438
Tyrol 229 199 428
Vorarlberg 145 295 440
Vienna 902 5,541 6,443
Total 1,980 7,498 9,478

Source: Ministry of Interior.

Support after the end of Basic Care is insufficient. Although there are some consultation services which provide advice on finding a flat and concluding a rental contract, there are no financial resources available to actively help beneficiaries to find accommodation. This is particularly concerning given that the real estate market has significantly risen. Recipients of Basic Care, which includes beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in several provinces, cannot find adequate accommodation with a subsidy of €150 per month for renting a flat. Families in Basic Care receive €300. Financial support for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection is a slightly higher amount as in this regime the size of a family is taken into account and it is possible to either completely subsidise the rent (as is the case in Tyrol) or receive subsidies for the rent.

In Lower Austria, the authorities regularly send letters to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection asking them to move out. In reality, this means a lot of pressure for people with subsidiary protection. The care teams intervene and send social reports to the authorities explaining why the beneficiaries of protection should not lose basic care benefits, especially families with school-age children or families with sick people who benefit from staying in a basic care facility. On the other hand, there is a trend for people with subsidiary protection to move to Vienna because the community is bigger there, there are greater chances of finding a job and there is entitlement to social benefits.[2]

In Vorarlberg, refugees who receive a minimum income do not receive a housing compensation but are transferred to landlords directly through the social department. Single refugees receive the minimum income only if they live in shared flats. If a person entitled to asylum decides to live in his or her own apartment, the compensation will amount only to the costs of a shared room. Single persons receive up to €503 for their rent. This is significantly higher compared to other federal states, where only €210 are granted.[3] In Tyrol, housing costs are capped and are awarded as a contribution in kind. The benefits are based on the real estate price table. In Vorarlberg, there have been cuts in the allowances of people residing in shared apartments: they now receive €473 instead of the previous €633.

Moreover, refusing a flat assigned by the country’s social department may result in the loss of housing benefits. This measure should also help the city of Innsbruck, which is often preferred by refugees as a place of residence after Vienna.

Refugees can also apply for social housing when they are at risk of becoming homeless. Nevertheless, the waiting lists are long and an emergency flat is rarely available. Certain conditions (e.g. proof of residence of 2 years at the same address) applicable to the city of Vienna make it more difficult to get a cheaper community flat. In many regions of Austria, there are no social housing schemes available. Refugees are usually excluded from the second possibility of cheap accommodations, co-operative flats, because they have to contribute to the construction cost and they lack the necessary resources.

In Upper Austria, the Landesrat responsible for integration has announced that subsidised housing will also be available to recognised refugees as long as they show sufficient efforts to cope with the social emergency, such as registering to the Labour Market Service.[4]

In Styria, Caritas has developed a project to finance housing costs of asylum seekers.[5] A major hurdle is the deposit that refugees cannot afford when they have to move out of the basic care 4 months after their protection has been granted. Caritas Styria offers persons benefitting from a protection status or holding a humanitarian residence permit interest-free loan guarantees. This is granted, however, only after verification of the financial situation and must be repaid in individually agreed rates.

Experience shows that persons benefitting from a protection status often change their flat in the first year(s) after recognition and the costs for rent are much higher than those prescribed by law. The introduction of a time limited Residence Permit of 3 years for refugees has also been criticised by NGOs and experts as it makes it more difficult to rent a flat without perspective to stay.

A study conducted by the Technical University of Vienna found that, due to several obstacles, refugees are extensively excluded from the benefit of municipal accommodations in practice and beneficiaries of the subsidiary protection do not have access to municipal housing at all. Cases of exploitation and discrimination in the private sector have also been reported. A worrying informal sub-market has emerged, offering housing at inflated prices, such as sleeping places – that are not even real rooms – and cost about €200 to €350 per month.[6] Facilities for homeless persons are also sometimes visited by refugees.

 

[1] Article 2 (1) (6) Grundversorgungsvereinbarung.

[2]  asylkoordination österreich, nationwide NGO survey on basic services Dec 2021/Jan 2022.

[3] Der Standard, Vorarlberg und Tirol beschließen Westlösung für Mindestsicherung, 17 January 2017, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2tkJb83.

[4]  OÖ Nachrichten, ‚Leere Wohnungen für Asylberechtigte‘, 27 October 2018, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2SUhaT6; Land Oberösterreich, ‚Hilfe zur Unterstützung des Lebensunterhalts und des Wohnbedarfs‘, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3aX9ULK.

[5]  Caritas Steiermark Flüchtlingsbetreung, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38co7T9.

[6]   Anita Aigner, Housing entry pathways of refugees in Vienna, a city of social housing, Housing Studies, 2018,
available at: https://bit.ly/2N7A57J.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation