Self-managed and affordable, ecological and inclusive – the pioneering project Bikes and Rails in Vienna’s Sonnwendviertel stands as an alternative to real estate speculation in the increasingly pressured housing market. The concept provides for buying houses collectively through private financing, freeing them from the market in the long term and thus securing affordable housing. The co-housing project Bikes and Rails is a member of Habitat and has built the first new building in this Austrian house project association, which works along the model of the Mietshäuser Syndikat in Germany. The house is located near the main railway station and was occupied by the residents in May 2020 after a five-year development and construction phase.
We are walking between construction fences and barriers, amidst ongoing development work in Sonnwendviertel as we approach Bikes and Rails. Behind the large wooden facade, walking past scores of bikes, neighbours are coming and going, stopping every now and then for a little chat. While waiting for Elke Rauth, a resident of the building and chairwoman of the urbanism magazine dérive, one of the residents takes a delivery package for a neighbour. Once Elke arrives, we take a small tour of the house together, where she tells us enthusiastically about the community whose members are sharing their lives in this building. After touring the residential and communal spaces, we move to Café Flöge on the ground floor, where we meet Manuel Hanke, also a fellow resident of the house who works at a housing research and consultancy cooperative.