The Fuggerei, which claims to be the oldest social housing project in the world, is just a stone’s throw from the city centre of Augsburg, a beautiful and prosperous town in southern Bavaria.
The little walled district may be a social housing scheme, but it's no eye sore itself. Its narrow little streets are lines with 67 picture-book terraced houses, all painted yellow.
For the 142 residents of the leafy settlement, the icing on the cake is the fact that the annual rent in just 88 cents.
“The annual rent hasn’t been changed for almost 500 years. In those days it amounted to a Rheinischer Gulden, which we have converted to 88 cents in today’s money,” Astrid Gabler, spokeswoman for the Fugger Foundation, told The Local.
There are other fees involved – though they shouldn’t break the bank. Residents have to pay another 88 cents for the upkeep of the local church as well as €85 in upkeep costs and heating bills.
For the Catholic family which run the Fuggerei, religious observance is as important as paying the small rent. Everyone who lives at the Fuggerei is required to pray three times a day.
In line with the religious focus of the settlement, there are also strict requirements for who is allowed to live there. The rules for applying haven’t actually changed since 1521, explained Gabler: you have to be a long-term Augsburg resident, Catholic and “needy.”
The settlement has a long history of helping the poor of the town “including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s great grandfather as well as widows after the war,” Gabler said.
All applicants have to pass through a complicated bureaucratic process that involves checks with the city social services and a review of the application by the foundation hierarchy.
It's certainly also not a place for party-goers. The settlement gates also close at 10pm every day, only re-opening them at 5am the next day.
But those who like to sneak in a drink or two after a hard day’s praying can still slip the night watchman a €1 coin and he’ll open the door to a quiet back street.
“Fuggerei residents can use the Ochsengasse gate throughout the night,” Gabler explained. “They pay the night watchman 50 cents before midnight and €1 after that.”