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The city of Augsburg, in Germany’s beautiful region of Bavaria, is a pleasant, affluent town, known for its 11th-century cathedral and stunning Renaissance buildings. The city grew up amid the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages, and quickly became established as an important trading hub.

In 1514, a new social housing project was born, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and it still endures to this day.

The Fuggerei is a walled district on the outskirts of Augsburg, containing 67 yellow painted houses. However, this is a settlement with a difference: the town’s 142 lucky residents only need to pay €0.88 in annual rent for each home, the equivalent of around US$1, the result of an agreement that has lasted for half a millennium.

The Fuggerei was founded in the 16th century by Jakob Fugger, head of the wealthy local Fugger family. According to the foundation established in his name, the Fuggers were originally cloth traders who had moved to Augsburg in the mid-14th century, where they prospered. By the 16th century, the family was well-established in Augsburg, owning a considerable amount of land in and around the city.

Jakob Fugger, also known as “Jakob the Rich”, was one of the most prominent bankers in the city. According to the Fugger Foundation, in 1521, driven by a desire to alleviate the plight of the poor of Augsburg, he established the world’s first social housing complex for Catholic families and individuals in dire need.

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Image courtesy The Vintage News

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