Housing First in Vienna: a socially innovative initiative to foster social cohesion

Abstract Over the last years, affordable housing has become less accessible in Vienna
and homelessness has remained a problem. This paper describes Housing First—a socially
innovative initiative—and investigates how social innovations can complement or progressively
modify the governance structures of the welfare state in order to better combat
homelessness. The in-depth analysis scrutinizes the socially innovative potential of a pilot
project on Housing First in Vienna, with regard to service delivery for the homeless and the
respective governance structure. The specific governance system is characterized by a
strong role of the municipal government as financing institution and regulator. The pilot
project, however, has contributed to changing the governance system, leading to more
deliberation of service providers and an incipient knowledge alliance for social innovation
in this field. This has the potential to implement evidence-based policy-making as well as
fostering social cohesion by striking the balance between equal access to housing for all
and awareness of divergent needs of a socioculturally diverse population.

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