On average, 16 football fields are built per day in Austria. “There is a gradual destruction of our nature through construction,” said Kurt Weinberger, CEO of Austrian Hail Insurance, in a press conference. This endangers our domestic food production, impacts biodiversity and exacerbates the consequences of extreme weather events.
Weinberger: Highest density of supermarkets in Europe
The current federal government has set itself the goal of reducing construction to a maximum of 2.5 hectares per day. This goal was largely missed. Austria is currently using 11.5 hectares a day, says Weinberger. Weinberger cited the supermarket situation as an example: “In Austria we have 60 supermarkets per 100,000 inhabitants, 50 percent more than in Germany. We therefore have the highest number of supermarkets in all of Europe.”
Suggestions to reduce land use:
1. Levy for vacant properties
According to a current study by the Economic Institute (Wifo), concrete measures are required. One possibility would be to introduce a nationwide vacancy tax and a vacancy database. According to estimates by the Federal Environment Agency, a total of 40,000 hectares of real estate are vacant. This would allow the state to receive additional revenue and reduce real estate transfer tax.
2. Certificates for areas and emissions
It was also considered to introduce a possible trading system with area certificates. “The idea is that area certificates are issued to the extent of the permitted land consumption and given to the communities,” said Wifo economist Margit Schratzenstaller. Another certificate could be the CO2 emissions certificate. If undeveloped land is repurposed, the CO2 storage capacities will subsequently change. “The CO2 storage capacity of settlement land is several times lower than that of forests,” says Schratzenstaller.
3. Collect local taxes as federal taxes
On the one hand, taxes such as real estate transfer tax can be a tax obstacle to making efficient use of empty buildings. On the other hand, the current property and municipal taxes offer incentives for development because they are viewed as municipal income. Therefore, local taxes, for example, must be collected as federal taxes, said Weinberger. A division of local tax revenue between the communities could promote the planning of shared areas, explained Schratzenstaller.
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