Every heart should have a home. That, at least, is what’s said in the Fuggerei, an extraordinary area of social housing in the German city of Augsburg. Among the current residents of the housing complex is Ilona who spent two years in the United States, chasing her dream of becoming a singer. Along the way from Ilona lives an artist whose life hasn’t been easy. But these days he’s completely at peace as long as he has his brush and palette. And here comes a woman who is blind, making her way to the evening Mass at St Mark’s Church. She recounts how living in the Fuggerei helped give her a fresh start and helped her regain her confidence after losing her sight.
The 67 houses in the Fuggerei are generally split into two apartments, giving 140 apartments in the entire complex. So the amount of personal space that residents have does vary slightly, though everyone pays the same rent. “And no-one complains about the rent,” says a man waiting at the door of St Mark’s. “It has never increased over hundreds of years. We each pay one Rhenish guilder. That’s not per month. A single guilder covers the rent for an entire year.” Coins of this long-forgotten currency of the German Rhineland are hard to come by these days so, in a small concession to modernity, the Trustees of the Fuggerei are happy to receive payment in euros. The rent due each year thus amounts to just 88 cents.
The residents are bound by an unusual requirement which cannot be bypassed by offering extra rent.