After World War II, Austria's standard of housing was low, a reflection of the historically low quality of urban and rural housing, the poor economic development of Austria in the interwar period, and the destruction during World War II. Overcrowding was widespread, especially in urban centers and among the working classes, and many living units did not have such modern conveniences as running water, toilets, bathing facilities, or central heating. In 1951, for example, only one-third of the country's living units had running water; less than 31 percent had a toilet on the premises; and only 11 percent had bathing facilities. Stoves using coal, oil, or wood as fuel were the most common forms of heating.
Since then, however, Austrian housing has improved considerably. The number of living units has increased by 53 percent, although the population grew by just over 10 percent, and almost all of the living units built since 1945 have all modern conveniences. Furthermore, improvements have been made in many of the living units built before World War II, although there remains a clear gap between the overall standards of old and new buildings. Seriously substandard housing--living units with running water, but without toilets or bathing facilities on the premises--has been reduced to less than 10 percent of the total. Most of this housing is found in cities. Low-income groups, such as the elderly, unskilled workers, and foreign workers, are the most frequent inhabitants of substandard housing.
As of the early 1990s, just over 55 percent of all Austrians owned their own homes or apartments, either as private individuals or under the auspices of ownership cooperatives. The rate of home ownership is higher in rural areas than in urban areas and higher in western and central Austria than in the east. In urban areas, apartment houses are much more common than single-family dwellings. Renting is more common in cities and in eastern Austria. Renters have considerable legal rights that make the termination of leases difficult and that provide for the regulation of rents. The building and ownership of apartment buildings by the municipal government is common in cities, such as Vienna, which traditionally have social democratic municipal governments.
By 1990 almost 10 percent of Austrians had a "second residence," used predominantly for recreational purposes. These second homes range from garden plots with huts (Schrebergarten), located on the outskirts of the cities, to old houses in rural communities and newly built one-family houses in the country.
At the beginning of the 1990s, around 25 percent of an average Austrian household's expenditures were for housing (mortgage or rent and utilities). Another 25 percent went for food (including alcohol and tobacco), and a further 16 percent was spent on transportation (including automobile payments). About 9 percent was spent on furnishings, 11 percent for clothing, education, or recreation, and the remainder for miscellaneous activities.
No scholarly work in English treats Austrian society as a whole. John Fitzmaurice's Austrian Politics and Society Today examines the development and roles of Austria's most important sociopolitical organizations. Although they are somewhat dated, a number of chapters from Modern Austria, edited by Kurt Steiner, are good historical and in-depth introductions to various aspects of Austrian society. Specific chapters in Austria: A Study in Modern Achievement, edited by Jim Sweeney and Josef Weidenholzer, offer a less detailed but more current analysis of many facets of Austrian society. Lonnie Johnson's Introducing Austria provides readers with some general insights into the dynamics of the development of Austrian society as a whole.
The Austrian government is responsible for a range of informative publications. The Federal Press Service's small book Austria: Facts and Figures is a good overview of the country's society, economy, and politics. The service also publishes a series of brochures in English and German that deal with specific aspects of Austrian society such as immigration, religion, education, and social security. These publications are available from Austrian embassies, consulates, and cultural institutes around the world. The annually revised Survey of the Austrian Economy from the government's Austrian Museum for Economic and Social Affairs in Vienna contains some social data. Scholarly publications in German from the Österreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt contain much information about Austrian society. Particularly valuable are Sozialstatistische Daten and Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Republik Österreich, both of which appear on a regular basis.
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