Since the mid of the 19th century Vienna experienced a huge geographic and demographic expansion. In the public debate the predominant planning perspective referred to the English model of the suburbanization, based on low density morphological patterns. Notwithstanding the wide agreement on this perspective among the ruling class, the development of Vienna took a compact character based on high density blocks of flats. The aim of this article is to demonstrate how the city development was determined by different factors and actors which prevented a low density urban expansion. The structure of the house ownership and its political influence on housing and transport policy was the most important of these factors. Thus city planning was defeated by the actual factors which lead the urban growth.