Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Aseema Sinha

Reader 2

Jonathan Petropoulos

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The industrialization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Berlin and Vienna led both cities to initiate a social housing program to create affordable housing for the masses moving into the cities. The cities share many characteristics and developed in similar directions at their early stages. Nevertheless, a century later, their social housing systems look far apart. While Vienna’s system continues to thrive and withstand pressures from the international and federal level, Berlin’s citizens showed their resentment towards housing in their city in a radical referendum demanding the expropriation of several real-estate companies. This thesis argues that we can only understand the reasons for these differences by analyzing the historical political periods shaping the cities’ housing systems. Although several periods shaped both cities, the ideological shifts of the Post-World War II and Cold War eras caused them to drift apart most significantly. The pro-market ideology of Western Germany shaped policymaking on the federal and city level. Social rental housing was seen as a temporary solution to some of the housing issues cities faced but not as a necessary pillar for the German welfare state. Instead, housing ownership and liberalization of the rental market were viewed as the mechanisms for improving housing and quality of life throughout the country. In contrast, the stable influence of the social democratic party and its dedication to housing that developed through the Red Vienna period allowed the social housing stock developed before World War II to continue and expand.