November 8th, 2022

Vienna Building Regulation: Opposition demands more housing and climate protection

The City of Vienna wants to change its building regulations, and on Wednesday and Thursday there will be a one-and-a-half-day symposium on the subject in the City Hall. As reported, the Viennese ÖVP has already strongly criticised the city’s approach in the run-up to the event, and it did not back down from this in essence in a media discussion on Tuesday. “Two thirds of it are lectures,” said Markus Wölbitsch, chairman of the parliamentary group. The opposition parties only have five minutes for input on Thursday.

Of course, the ÖVP also has demands. Elisabeth Olischar, spokesperson for planning, demands more transparency, for example in urban development contracts. Or also with the zoning plans themselves: It is often “a bit of a mystery” how they come about. “Nobody knows when such a process is started and how it works.” In this context, Olischar demanded that the old, superseded plans – when a new one was put into effect – should also remain available online.

Olischar also criticised the fact that the various specialised concepts, master plans, etc., which the city’s planning department had already commissioned in quite large numbers in the past, were not coordinated enough. “Evaluation then
does not take place.”

Or rarely: At any rate, at the Fachenquete there is supposed to be an evaluation of the dedication category “subsidised housing”, which has existed since 2018. However, as reported, the whole Fachenquete is not open to the media.

“Very confusing”

The ÖVP planning spokesperson also calls for an “in-between” urban development plan (Step) and zoning and development plan – namely a “district development plan”. In any case, Olischar and Peter Sittler, spokesperson for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) on housing, think that the districts should have a greater say in the creation or modification of zoning.

The latter thinks that Vienna’s building regulations have become “very confusing” over time. In the opinion of the ÖVP, the time has finally come for a separate Vienna Spatial Planning Act – the federal capital is the only province that does not have one. What else Sittler would like to see: more residential space in the city centre, for example in ground-floor zones where housing has been prohibited up to now (“business districts”). In addition, VP demands that have been known for a long time, such as more accuracy in social housing and more efforts to renovate municipal buildings.

Protection of old buildings

Olischar also stressed the protection of old buildings. She would like to see stricter rules for new buildings in protection zones; here, too, “arbitrariness and capriciousness” must disappear. “The protection of old buildings must have the highest priority”, both inside and outside protection zones. For this, clear criteria for or against demolition decisions are needed – as also demanded by the building industry. In new buildings, it should be obligatory for roofs to be either greened or equipped with photovoltaics, said Olischar, and retrofitting balconies should be more possible. The Vienna Greens also presented their demands for the amendment on Tuesday: “The amendment to the building code must be a climate protection reform,” said party leader Peter Kraus. For the 500,000 households that are still heated with gas in Vienna, clear rules for the phase-out are needed – for example in the form of energy plans, which already exist for new construction areas, and which are also to be used in existing buildings to determine where and when the switch to renewable heat must be made.

The installation of gas heating systems should also be prohibited in new buildings and also in larger renovation projects. In addition, the Greens would like to see a separate dedication category for fossil-free energy provision that regulates the use of geothermal energy.

Subdued expectations

They also demand more speed in terms of thermal renovation, renewable electricity and heat protection. They also call for more measures against land consumption, including a vacancy tax and the overbuilding of existing parking spaces.

The preservation of old houses is also important to the Greens: as reported, they would like to see an abolition of economic demolition maturity in the building code as well as a push for the circular economy.

Overall, however, the Greens’ expectations of the amendment to the building code are subdued: “We will hear what is planned on the part of the city for the first time tomorrow,” says Kraus. All in all, the Enquete is “much too late”, emphasised housing spokesman Georg Prack. He expects the new building code to be codified in the middle of next year and not to come into force until 2024: “We don’t have that time.”

Source:, 08.11.2022

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