Discrimination on the Housing Market: A Growing Problem in Austria

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: September 14, 2023; 08:34 ♦ (Vindobona)

A recent SORA study conducted on behalf of the Ombud for Equal Treatment highlights a serious problem in Austria's real estate market: racism and discrimination. People with foreign-sounding names or accents have significantly fewer chances of being invited to view an apartment compared to people with typical Austrian names.

The result of a study shows alarming racist tendencies in the domestic housing market, where apartment seekers with foreign-sounding names lose out to those with domestic names. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Simon Legner (User:simon04), CC BY-SA 4.0

The study exposes serious discrimination based on ethnicity. In a test, 157 housing advertisements in various Austrian cities were contacted by two test persons with fictitious biographies. While "Muhammad Asif" received an invitation for a viewing appointment only in 50% of the cases, "Michael Gruber" received an appointment in every call. This was even though both presented themselves as middle-aged, single, employed for an indefinite period in technical jobs, and earning good wages.

Discrimination goes beyond the private sector

The Diakonie criticized, as reported by ORF, that discrimination takes place not only in the private housing market but also in municipal housing and cooperative housing. Families with children are particularly affected.

The Austrian Equal Treatment Act prohibits any discrimination in access to housing based on gender or ethnicity. However, this protection is not as comprehensive as in labor law. Discrimination that takes place based on religion, ideology, or sexual orientation is unfortunately not classified as discriminatory in the housing sector, which is considered morally questionable.

Some of the proposed solutions to prevent such incidents in the future include setting standards for non-discriminatory housing placement on the part of the real estate industry and recommending that landlords learn about the Equal Treatment Act and write their housing advertisements in inclusive, non-discriminatory language.

The increasing number of affected persons contacting the Ombud for Equal Treatment shows that discrimination in the housing market is an urgent problem that cannot be ignored. It is time for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of finding a home, regardless of name, origin, or accent.

Chamber of Labor

Ombud for Equal Treatment

SORA Institute