Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Vienna Social Housing Field Study Reception
September 12, 2022
Palais Coburg Yellow Room
Speaker Pro Tem Atkins, thank you so much for that kind introduction.
Mayor Dyer, Jennifer LeSar, State and Local Government Officials, Affordable Housing Stakeholders,
Thank you for your leadership in support of expanding affordable housing. This is such an important topic, it is high on President Biden’s agenda, and it’s great to see you all here. It is a pleasure to welcome you to Vienna!
I am also delighted to see the head of the IBA Kurt Hofstetter and Vice President Philipp Gady from Austria’s Economic Chamber. Welcome.
As I am sure my Austrian friends and colleagues would agree, your visit exemplifies the positive contacts and exchanges that strengthen our already robust relationship with Austria. The United States and Austria have shared values and common interests that connect us diplomatically, commercially, and culturally.
Business is one of these important linkages. We have a strong trade and investment relationship with Austria. The United States is a top market for Austrian exports, and Austria is the second fastest growing source country for U.S. foreign direct investment. Austrian companies employ about 35,000 Americans and add significantly to the U.S. economy.
Building on this growing trade and investment relationship, I had the privilege to lead one of the largest delegations from Austria this year, including an unprecedented number of women, to our annual SelectUSA Summit. The intense, week-long program generated new opportunities for Austrian companies seeking to increase their investments in the United States.
Our relationship benefits from a wide range of ongoing people-to-people contacts in business, in education, and in the arts. From science and technology research collaboration to student and cultural exchanges, these contacts are so important to nurturing the long-lasting bonds of friendship between the United States and Austria.
The U.S. Embassy supports several efforts to foster people-to-people exchanges and build new bridges between our countries.
I have been delighted to see a rebound in the number of Austrian youth who are eager to study in and experience the United States. Our demand for student and exchange visas is back to pre-pandemic levels. We’ve facilitated travel to the U.S. for nearly 2,000 Austrians thus far this year to participate in study and cultural exchange programs.
The U.S. Embassy supports so many of these exchanges. For example, in July, we sent 20 young Austrian entrepreneurs to the United States for training and sharing of best practices on developing new business ideas and startups. During the two-week program, these young Austrian innovators met with their American peers, developed contacts with American businesses and venture capitalists, and gained a first-hand experience with U.S. business and culture.
Your visit is an important part of these ongoing contacts and exchanges that strengthen our relationship with Austria. And the focus of your visit is timely. We need to find solutions to America’s housing crisis. Some estimates suggest a shortfall of more than 1.5 million homes in America. This supply gap drives inflation and limits economic growth. Rising housing costs have had a particular impact on low- and moderate-income families.
As you know, President Biden is leading efforts to boost the supply of quality housing in the U.S. He announced an ambitious plan in May of this year, including new funding mechanisms to generate more affordable rents and attainable homeownership for Americans in every community. There are also measures in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to improve climate resiliency of affordable housing.
Solving the housing supply gap requires efforts at the state and local levels, so I applaud the leadership you have shown in your communities on this issue.
You’ve come to the right place. Housing is an area where we can learn from Austria’s leadership and experience. Vienna, in particular, has a lot to share from its successful social housing programs. Across Austria, affordable units house approximately 24% of the population, at rents averaging 20% below the private market.
In closing, I wish you a successful field study and hope you come away with new perspectives, ideas, and networks to support sustainable housing in the United States.