Who Lives There Now? Residualisation of Social Housing in Austria

Across Europe, there is a trend to re-focus social housing on the most economically vulnerable groups (“residualisation”). We investigate whether this trend is also observed in Austria, a conservative welfare state with a social housing system open to a broad range of households and a long tradition of municipal housing. Using data from 1995 to 2018, we estimate residualisation indicators that compare the income of social housing tenants with other housing sectors. Based on tenants’ income, we find that municipal housing has become more residualised. This contrasts with Austria’s social housing allocation policy, where generous income limits remain important cornerstones. For limited-profit housing associations (LPHAs), we observe a smaller residualisation trend (mainly outside the capital Vienna), which has gained momentum since the early 2010s. This remedies the Austrian peculiarity that the LPHA sector was a middle-income tenure rather than a safety net for the poor. For both types of social housing, a growing income gap with owners is noticeable.