Just 78 km west of Munich lies the garden paradise that is Fuggerei – quaint little estate with a population of 150 and a rent cost that has not been raised in 500 years.
The Fuggerei estate was opened in the Bavarian city of Augsburg five hundred years ago and it is considered the oldest social housing project in the world. It was founded in 1521 by Jakob Fugger, a wealthy merchant. He founded the estate with the intention of providing a home for the city’s poorest Catholic citizens.
Fugger documented the conditions that the residents must meet if they were to live at his estate: they had to be residents of Augsburg, economically disadvantaged and Catholic. The cost of rent was established by Fugger that same year and has remained unchanged ever since. One Rhenish guilder, equals to 88 cents today. Along with the single Rhenish guilder, residents were required to pray three times every day for the Fugger family.
Fugger’s social housing concept was all but unheard of in the 16th century, in those days the impoverished lower class were often split up. The parents would be sent to gender-segregated workhouses and the children were sent to orphanages. Fugger’s value of family is what impassioned him to provide a space for struggling families to grow. The city within a city was created to remove the financial burden from its residents while they get back on their feet.
Fugger set up a charitable trust to carry the burden of the residents on his estate, according to the Wall Street Journal, the trust only sees returns of around 0.5% to 2% each year. Luckily, that isn’t the estate’s only source of income. Tourism has grown in the five hundred years since the historical residence has existed, visitors can receive tours of the neighborhood for €4 euro.
Fuggerei played a special part in World War II when an air-raid bunker was placed in the garden for residents to take shelter during the bombings. By the end of the war about 70% of Fuggerei was ravaged. The next few decades were spent restoring the estate, this however, would not allow Fuggerei a vacation from its responsibilities. In the years following the war, the area became a haven for war widows and families to find refuge in postwar Germany.
As of today, the city has 150 people spread out across 140 apartments. The residents of Fuggerei take great pride in their homes and show their appreciation by giving back to the community. Whether its de-weeding the garden, upkeeping the 67 buildings, or taking a shift as a night guard at the front gate. The average resident has usually been reserved for older pensioners but now, the Fuggerei estate is home to young adults just starting out, single parents and middle-aged couples.
After all this, I’m sure you are considering a change in residence with an incentive to move into one of the yellow, two-stories high, terrace houses that make up the Fuggerei estate. If you are considering uprooting your life to this quaint little Bavarian paradise, think again. The Fuggerei receives around 30 to 40 applicants a year, the last time I checked, the waiting list is 80 people long. But don’t let that discourage you from visiting the world’s most successful social housing project, after all, it is still a historical must-see location in Germany.