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Fuggerei: where a year's rent costs less than a beer

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Picture yourself in the current housing crisis. Then imagine paying less than one euro for a whole year’s rent. For a select group of people living in a housing complex in The Bavarian town of Augsburg, this is in fact a reality.

Fuggerei. Photo: Astrid Foerster via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Fuggerei’s opening. This small residential area was the first social housing complex in the world, created by Jakob Fugger in 1520 for the absolute poorest residents of Augsburg. It consists of 52 identical houses, which are divided into apartments with its own town square. There was even a church added to the complex after the local one used by residents became protestant.

When the complex was first established, one year’s rent cost a single Rhein Guilder, the equivalent to approximately €0.88 in today’s money. The Fugger family still own the Fuggerei and luckily for its current 150 inhabitants, they have steadfastly maintained the rent at the same level 500 years later, refusing to comply with the inflation taking place outside the Fuggerei’s gated walls.

When the Fuggerei was first formed, workshops were built into the complex so that residents could develop businesses to provide support for their families. There was also a medical facility for residents suffering from smallpox and syphilis and a separate building created for Wold War Two widows.

During the Second World War, the Fuggerei was heavily bombed, as well as already having been previously damaged during the Thirty Year’s War. However, each time it has been reconstructed in the same unique style, by request of the Fugger family.

Jakob Fugger, the creator of Fuggerei often referred to as Jakob “Der Reiche”, was a member of the extremely well-off Fugger family, all of whom were prominent European bankers. He originally amassed his wealth in the textile industry through trade deals with Italy, before moving on to the mining industry where he managed many copper and silver operations all over Europe. Jakob Fugger is the wealthiest individual ever to have lived, with a net worth of around $400 billion in today’s money. He owned a bank that minted coins for the Vatican, which is most likely where the majority of his power came from due to the control he acquired over the catholic faith.

But is this town all too good to be true? Well, there are several strict conditions one must meet before qualifying to live there. Anyone looking to take up residency in the Fuggerei must have already lived in the city of Augsburg for at least two years, have no debt and must be a devout Catholic. On moving in, you’re required to pray three times a day thanking the Fugger family for allowing them to live there and to pray for their souls.

In addition to these rules, residents have a curfew of 10pm after which the complex gates are locked for the night, with inhabitants take turns in manning the gate house. Anyone who returns home late can be let in, for a fee of one euro – technically more than a whole year’s rent. But are these rules, which could be considered cult-like to some, worth the astonishingly low rent? We’ll leave that for you to decide.

In the meantime, the attraction is open all year round, with adult tickets available, somewhat ironically, for €6.50.

The Fuggerei has preserved its rent cost for 500 years. Here’s to 500 more.


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