Vienna grows: 2-million mark could be cracked this year

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Vienna is slowly but surely heading towards two million inhabitants. According to the latest figures, Austria’s federal capital currently has 1,982,442 inhabitants.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Vienna could break the two million inhabitant mark this year. In 2024, the new urban development plan will be presented to the city council for a decision.

“In the new concept, we will focus even more than before on inner-city measures to make public space more attractive in response to the climate crisis,” the city of Vienna’s planning director, Thomas Madreiter, told Austria Presse Agentur.

Vienna heads for 2 million inhabitants
While Vienna is currently holding at 1,982,442 inhabitants according to the latest figures (as of January 1, 2023) and is thus heading for the two million population mark, the city is currently working out the upcoming planning concept for the next ten years. In it, Madreiter already wants to set the course for a climate-neutral Vienna. “Among other things, we will massively push urban greening, but also the expansion of soft mobility such as bike paths,” the graduate spatial planner told the APA.

Urban development plan to focus on the climate crisis
According to Madreiter, a second main role is to be played by a “balanced mix” between small-scale housing and larger residential projects. “Experience shows us that 50 percent of urban development projects (mostly residential) take place in larger urban development areas (currently, for example, Seestadt, Nordbahnhof, Hauptbahnhof), and the rest are realized in the form of small-scale projects (conversions of existing buildings, additions of floors, building over parking lots,” Madreiter said. Already, a 50:50 strategy is being pursued housing between large urban expansion projects and small-scale projects in the city, it said. “After all, we also want to ensure that 50 percent of Vienna remains green.” The future concept is also based on international models such as Barcelona, Copenhagen or Amsterdam.

2022 massive growth in population due to the Ukraine war
Especially the year 2022 brought massive growth in the number of inhabitants to Austria’s capital. According to state statistics, Vienna grew by 115,000 people over the past six years. With an increase of 50,800 people in 2022, almost half of this occurred during the war in Ukraine. “In normal years, Vienna grows by 10,000 to 15,000 people,” explained Ramon Bauer, the city’s chief statistician. “It depends now on the further course of the war. If the situation changes there, there could be more inhabitants, but also fewer, which is decisive for whether two million inhabitants will still be reached this year.”

In this context, Madreiter also emphasized the positive effects of migration. “The absolute number of people over 80 in Vienna will double in the next few years,” he said. “Without migration, society would become massively overaged.”

More residents also mean more challenges for Vienna.
However, the growth of a city always speaks for attractiveness, said Kerstin Krellenberg, Professor of Urban Studies at the Institute of Geography and Regional Research at the University of Vienna. “After all, Vienna’s population has been growing continuously for many years. The strong population growth in 2022, the strongest since 1962, is due to a positive migration balance related to the Ukraine war. But Vienna continues to be attractive to people from other countries, such as Germany,” Krellenberg said in response to an APA query.

Such growth, however, comes with several challenges, he said. “Space or area is not an infinite resource, so in the future it will be a matter of redensifying intelligently,” Krellenberg said. He said that one of the biggest hurdles is managing the creation of new housing while expanding new green space. “As an important measure for cooling the city and balancing out heavy rainfall events. New housing must be created with limited land availability, while remaining climate-smart and affordable.” The future megacity, and thus Vienna, must therefore offer attractive options in terms of public transport, cycling and pedestrians. “We will then no longer be able to afford the high levels of sealing, especially for motorized individual transport. Sealing leads to a heating up of the city and less cooling at night.”

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