06 January 2009

Talk about rent controlled.

When I was visiting my parents over the holidays, my father clipped a WSJ article out for me.

There is a housing settlement in Southern Germany called Fuggerei. It was built as a charitable trust in the early 1500s by a very, very rich man named Jakob Fugger (Jakob "The Rich"). I am kind of embarrassed to not have heard of Fugger before, because check out what a big shot he was:
He minted coins for the Vatican, bankrolled the Holy Roman Empire and helped steer Europe's spice trade in the early 16th century to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful financiers in history. He left more than seven tons of gold to his successors.

By the early 16th century, he had become the chief financial backer of the Habsburg family, whose members sat on thrones across Europe. He bankrolled the election of Spain's King Charles V as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519.
The settlement (the oldest housing project in the world!) is Roman Catholic, and one of the stipulations of being allowed to live there – other than being poor – is that residents say 3 prayers for Fugger (and his descendants) a day.

[image from Wikipedia]

[image from WSJ.com]

Okay, here is the best part. The rent? 1 Rhein guilder, annually. In 2009 words? €0.88. That – as of now – is $1.18 USD.

A dollar eighteen a year, for rent.

Pretty soon, a monthly Metrocard will cost more than an entire lifetime of rent in Fuggerei – and that's only assuming that someone pays rent every single year that they're alive, which is pretty silly. Also, from what I understand, Fuggerei's mostly for widowers and the retired. So that's, what, nearly $15 of rent, total (or, the price of a hamburger at Five Leaves). Amazing. Okay, I'll stop doing ridiculous math now, because this stuff is a little silly to compare as if everything is equal. But still, fun to think about.

Other things I found interesting:

– Mozart's great grandfather lived there

– The doorbells are all ornately shaped, so that residents could find their homes in the dark

– The settlement was almost destroyed by bombs in WWII, but was rebuilt in its original style

– One of the first floor apartments is uninhabited, and serves as a museum for visitors (anyone wanna go?)

– The take turns guarding the main gate of the settlement at night (which is locked after 10pm). If people wander home too late, they have to pay to be let back in

Watch this video from WSJ too! The embed code was glitchy and wouldn't let me publish the entry, unfortunately.
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