After Over 500 Years, the World’s Oldest Social Housing Complex Is Still Going Strong

In 1516, Jakob Fugger, a wealthy merchant in Augsburg, Germany, had a charitable idea. He wanted to create a place for the city’s needy Catholic workers, where they could live together debt-free, without the stress of trying to get by in an expensive place on a salary that was too low. Construction began immediately on what Fugger called Fuggerei — a walled town within the city of Augsburg — where for just one Rheinischer Gulden ($1.03 today and one month’s salary at the time) per year, residents could get an apartment and the security of not having to struggle for money. By 1523, 52 houses were built, and the complex continued to expand with more homes, a town square, and a church. Now, over 500 years later, the Fuggerei is the world’s oldest social housing complex. It houses needy Augsburg residents, who still pay $1.03 per year — except now there are about 150 residents of all ages and marital status, 67 buildings and 147 700-square-foot apartments. Interested renters must have lived in Augsburg for at least two years to apply for an apartment. Those accepted still need to follow the original rules from the 1500s, saying three prayers a day for the current Fugger family owners. They also need to work part-time in the community. Flexibility, commitment and a continuing strict set of rules for residents continue to keep the complex a success.