Renting a house is really expensive, especially when living in a city. To add to that, the landlord keeps increasing the rent every year! How awesome would it be if the rent remained same, no matter the length of stay? This is exactly what happens in a tiny village called Fuggerei. Fuggerei was originally built as a housing complex for the poor. Over the years with more buildings being added and facilities being introduced, Fuggerei has become a small village. The intriguing part is that the rent for residing in Fuggerei has remained the same since 1520!
Built amidst the city of Augsburg, there is a small, walled housing complex. It was constructed in 1520 and is known as Fuggerei. It is the oldest social housing complex in history and stands tall and occupied to this day. Fuggerei has a rich history and is beautiful. But the thing that leaves people in awe is that people residing in the complex today pay the same rent as in 1520. The annual rent in 1520 was 1 Rhein guilder, and people today pay the equivalent which is €0.88 or just under $1.
Since the complex is historically protected, there have not been many changes except the necessary ones. Mentionable changes include provisions for electricity and running water. Housing units are 500–700 square feet in size. Each apartment comes with a kitchen, parlor, bedroom and small spare room. Each house has its own distinctive doorknocker like a pine cone or a cloverleaf. This was because earlier, there were no streetlights. So, each house had a distinct doorknocker so that people could identify their house at dark by just touching the doorknocker. The apartments on the ground floor also come with a garden and shed, while upper floor apartments are equipped with attics.
The historic, walled complex, Fuggerei, amidst the city of Augsburg, is the creation of Jakob Fugger “the Rich.” He was a wealthy banker and was responsible for managing the finances of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg family. He was one of the wealthiest financiers in history and left more than seven tons of gold for his family.
But he was not content with wealth and wished to do some good deeds for the society. This made him begin the plans for Fuggerei with an initial deposit of 10,000 guilders. His aim was to create a community for the poor that incorporated religious activities along with extremely cheap housing facilities. The original residents of the complex were mainly craftsmen and day laborers. Some people operated small businesses from home or traded their services for goods. A school was established on site to offer Catholic education. One of the most famous residents of Fuggerei was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s great-grandfather who called it his home from 1681 to 1694. As of today, there is a stone plaque dedicated to his patronage.
The original architecture was done by Thomas Krebs and the St. Mark’s Church was added by Hans Holl in 1582. Until 1938, many more housing complexes, fountains, and other facilities were added. But unfortunately, during WWII, much of Fuggerei was damaged. For the protection of the residents, a bunker was built within the complex. Today, the bunker has been turned into a bunker museum. Once the war ended, two buildings were constructed for widows to support them and their families. Also, the damages done were repaired and more buildings were added. As of today, there are 67 houses and 147 Wohnungen (apartments).
Fugger started the community with an initial deposit of 10,000 guilders. The trust still manages the property. Most of the money for the trust comes from the forestry holdings of the Fugger family. The annual return on the trust is around 0.5% to 2%, taking inflation into consideration. The Fugger family foundation is currently headed by Countess Maria-Elisabeth von Thun und Hohenstein and Countess Fugger von Kirchberg. The administration of the trust is handled by Wolf-Dietrich Graf von Hundt.
The housing complex is quite charming, and anybody who knows about it wants to reside there for a while. But, there are strict restrictions if you wish to be a part of Fuggerei. For starters, there is a waiting list that spans four years. Some people who get the chance to stay there after waiting so long have expressed that they feel like winning a lottery!
Moreover, people willing to reside in Fuggerei must be of the Catholic faith. They must also participate in prayers that happen three times on a daily basis – the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed. Minimum age requirement is over 60 years, and the applicant must have resided in Augsburg for the last two years. Also, although the housing complex is only for the poor and needy, if they have a debt, they are not allowed. The people residing there are also required to contribute to the community by working as a night watchman, sexton, or gardener. They also have strict curfews. The gates of the complex are closed at 10 p.m. every day. Late entry is only available with the payment of $.50 (or €1) to the night watchman.
People from across the world come to get a glimpse of this wonderful community. Forty-five-minute tours are available for visitors. The visitors cannot enter any of the occupied buildings. but if they wish to experience the look-and-feel of the apartments, they can visit the museum. The museum has a preserved apartment, exactly like the ones in the occupied buildings.
The museum also offers detailed information on the Fugger family. Visitors can also check out the bunker that was built during WWII. Some may even get the chance to interact with the elderly residing in the community.
The tours are available in numerous foreign languages such as German, English, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Rumanian, Greek, Hungarian, and Chinese. Each tour costs €4 per person.