Rent a house for €0.88 a year

Just outside of Munich lies a sleepy village called Fuggerei, where the rent for a whole year is just under one Euro, 88 cents to be precise. So what do you get in exchange for your measly rent? A matchbox? A cupboard maybe? Is it made of strudel? No, you get a modestly spacious two-bedroom apartment made of stone. Is it in a dodgy area? No, Fuggerei is extremely safe and rather pretty if you ask me. It even sits inside its own walled enclave; people pay millions for that shit in America. The five gates of Fuggerei are locked every day at 10pm, blocking off any passage in or out of the housing complex. The residents have to take turns to man a gatehouse to let stragglers in after 10pm who got locked outside, all of whom have to pay a fee of 1 Euro for coming home late. What time do you call this Steve? But bu… Listen Steve, I don’t care if your car broke down on your way to visit your terminally ill grandma. It’s 2 minutes past 10, that’ll be one year’s rent please. Why is the rent so cheap anyway? Well Fuggerei is the world’s oldest social housing complex still in use. Fuggerei sits in the Bavarian city of Augsburg and it was created in 1520 to house the city’s poorest residents, the rent was set at 1 Rhein guilder when it was built, about 88 Euro cents in todays money, and it hasn’t changed since. The owners, which are still the same family that built the complex in 1520, have basically put a big middle finger up to inflation. Fuggerei was built by a rather interesting bloke and one of the richest persons to have ever lived, Jakob Fugger, from the little known but highly influential Fugger family - but more about him in a minute. Altogether there are 52 identical houses in Fuggerei, each divided into apartments. There’s also a town square and a church. But wait a minute, before you go and tell your mum you’ve found a place of your own and you’re moving to Germany. Because unfortunately, you’re probably not allowed to live there. Yeah sorry, sit back down. If the rent sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are strict rules for anyone wanting to rent their very own slice of this super-cheap gated community. To rent an apartment here one must have lived at least two years in Augsburg, belong to the Catholic faith and be extremely poor, without any debt. No only that, once you live in Fuggerei, you are required to say three prayers every day, thanking the Fugger family for allowing you to live there and you also must pray for their souls. This place is like a cult. People usually have a grave dislike for bankers, which the residents of Fuggerei all agree with. But when residents were asked about their opinion of the Fugger family, whom themselves were billionaire bankers, their opinion quickly changes. The residents here have nothing but endless good words to say about Jakob Fugger and his family, upholding them almost as deities. Maybe they’re just grateful for the fact they have a house in a rather lovely city for just under one Euro per year. Or maybe it’s the fact that they will be chucked out of Fuggerei if they say otherwise. Hmm, I’m starting to think they should rename this place to “Little North Korea”. I’m exaggerating of course, it’s not that bad; “I’m sorry lord Fugger, please don’t evict my grandma!”. So who is Jakob Fugger, why was he so wealthy and why did he create Fuggerei? The Fugger family are a prominent family of European bankers who took over the infamous Medici family. Jakob Fugger was the wealthiest of the family and he was commonly referred to as “Jakob the Rich” by all who knew him. Jakob started out in the textile industry, trading with Italy. He then invested in mining and soon came to control a huge portion of the silver and copper mining operations throughout Europe. Jakob also owned a bank and actually minted coins for the Vatican, which enabled him to control the catholic faith and thusly control European politics, because at that time, the pope had his fingers in all those juicy political pies. For a short while Jakob’s wealth made his home city of Augsburg the banking capital of Europe. Jakob was worth the modern equivalent of $277 billion, if he was alive today he would be the richest person in the world, by a mile. But he was no saint, Jakob’s path to riches was paved with deceit and political corruption, some say he was even worse than the highly corrupt Medicis. He even created his own weekly newspaper, just for his eyes, that contained dirt on his competitors, so he could get ahead of them. He paid a lot of money for the newspaper to be researched, printed and delivered to him every week. One week he must have read some dirt on himself in his own newspaper, because in an effort to dispel the bad press surrounding him, and improve his public image, Jakob created the social housing complex of Fuggerei to house the poorest of Augsburg’s citizens and he made the rent so ridiculously low, at 1 Rhein guilder, that anyone could afford to live there. So why was Fuggerei created? So a ruthless capitalist could try to persuade the world that he was really quite a nice guy. Hey, it seems to have worked, even today the residents of Fuggerei literally worship Jakob and the Fugger family. They’ve even opened a museum there to showcase the legacy of the Fugger family. So would you live in Fuggerei if you could? All you have to do is worship a false deity that’s been dead for 500 years. Oh and don’t come home after 10 o’clock, they still haven’t forgiven Steve.

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