It was hard to build a house

Building a house, living: Why it is more difficult for young people today than for their parents

Vienna - Anna and Lukas Huber are unsure. The two of them, she a saleswoman, he an engineer, are approaching their thirties. Married last year, children are now on the agenda. But they still live in a small apartment. They want something bigger, have a nice interior and spend at least the next 20 or 30 years there. Lukas wants to build a house, Anna doubts whether it will be financially viable. What you are sure of: Your parents once had it easier. But is that so? After all, they both have an income, which was less common in their parents' generation. Is Anna rightly worried?

It depends on. Anna and Lukas are made up, they don't really exist, but their situation is common in Austria. Whether they can afford a house depends heavily on where they live. A rule of thumb: the more people live in one place, the more expensive it gets. Because Austria's population is growing rapidly and more and more people want to live in metropolitan areas, the prices for land have risen sharply in many regions. Not only in and around Vienna, but also in densely populated regions such as Vorarlberg, Tyrol and large parts of Salzburg.

An average house that is being built today is around 150 m², says Wolfgang Amann, the head of the Institute for Real Estate, Building and Living. With a garden, garage and a little distance to the neighbors, you need 500 to 600 m² of space. In Vorarlberg, more than 200,000 euros are quickly due for this. Twice or three times as much around Vienna. A house costs another 200,000 to 300,000 euros, depending on the equipment. Average earners like Lukas and Anna cannot afford the loan installments for this. If they had given land from their parents or had received a large inheritance from their grandmother, it would be different.

But if you build in the countryside in Upper Austria, Lower Austria or Styria, then a normal consumer can also service such a loan. If you have saved up something, you will pay back 1000 euros a month for 30 years. Assuming that Anna earn 1200 euros and Lukas 1900 euros, that's around 30 percent of their income. She would earn a little worse, he a little better than the average Austrians of the same sex and age. If Anna later reduces it to 20 hours, like many mothers, it increases to 40 percent. That's a lot, but affordable.

Anna's father earned well, her mother was at home until her children grew up. Her parents were still able to afford a house. The reason was even cheaper, just like plumbing or painting work, and the housing subsidy more abundant. "People also did more themselves," says housing researcher Amann. "It has already been built for five years and not gone on vacation." For Amann, however, the comparison with the past lags "behind and in front". Anna and Lukas' parents had come to terms with much lower standards. Houses were also much smaller in size.

There are also many couples who prefer to rent. Because they do not know what the future will bring or because they tend to spend the money for the loan installment on an apartment that is much larger in comparison. If Anna and Lukas take this path, is it easier for them than it was for their parents in the past?

If Anna's parents had looked around the rental market in 1990 before building a house, they would have come across a few apartments with a toilet in the hallway. Almost all of them have disappeared today. Virtually all apartments in Austria fall into category A, which means they have a room, kitchen, toilet, bathroom, heating and are at least 30 m² in size. The standards have risen sharply over a generation.

So it was definitely not more beautiful. The area of ​​an average rental apartment has increased by 7 m² to 69 m², so people now have more space. However, rents have almost doubled on average over the past 25 years if the remaining inflation is deducted. Young people pay more because new contracts are much more expensive than an average existing rent. On average, the surcharge is 20 percent, in Vienna it is even a third.

Assuming that Lukas' father is an industrial worker with an average income, he would have to work six hours longer today to be able to afford an average 70 m² apartment in Category A, as a study by the Association of the Real Estate Industry shows. His wages have risen, but the rents have increased significantly.

In addition, the average Austrian is living alone more and more often. He therefore already spends 23 percent of his income on housing. In 1990 it was six percentage points less. In the EU, however, almost everywhere, in relative terms, people put more on the table. In Austria, community and cooperative housing ensure lower prices. Young people like Lukas and Anna now live better and better than their parents used to be. But you also pay more. (Andreas Sator, July 31, 2016)

Entry into professional life, starting a family, building a house: Was life easier for young adults in the past? DER STANDARD is addressing this question as part of a Summer series. Already published: