Much ink has been spilled writing about how simple and straightforward social policy is better for ordinary people (here are two examples). When programs are complicated, ordinary people miss out on opportunities they are eligible for because they don’t understand the system. Similarly, complicated systems often allow the wealthy or better connected–with more resources to navigate the complicated system–to become the primary beneficiaries. Indeed, we previously saw how the mortgage interest tax deduction disproportionately benefits the wealthy, and that nearly half of people with mortgages do not even claim the deduction.
However, Vienna has managed to cobble together a nearly incomprehensible set of policies to create one of the most affordable large cities in the world. The housing system is so complex that Virtual Vienna, an online resource for those relocating to Vienna, actually recommends hiring a lawyer before renting an apartment. Vienna’s affordable housing strategy relies on two very different forms of public housing, rent controls and other landlord-tenant regulations, and rental subsidies. No single part of this strategy is straightforward, and one expert estimates that the system is so complicated that only about 30-40 people actually understand it. Yet–despite its extraordinary complexity–Vienna has nearly unparalleled access to affordable housing. Overall, just 7.4% of all housing stock is for profit without any rent controls.Read More »How Vienna ensures affordable housing for all with an extremely complicated housing system