Affordable Housing in Poland

Access to affordable housing is a challenge in this 38 million EU member state.  While that can be said in probably every EU country, the culture of families taking care of each other might hide some of the underlining issues.  Many poles stack up with relatives and deal with being under-housed.  The government in Poland is trying to create more affordable housing options, but we will examine that in a moment.  It is worth understanding the structure of affordable housing in Poland before looking at new plans/initiatives.

Defining social housing in Poland reminds me of what I saw in Estonia and other eastern countries of the EU.  It is a challenge.   Under the umbrella of social housing there is a mixture of low rent units owned by cities, rent regulated units owned by non-profits called TBS and a mixture of several other types of housing that are a bit difficult to explain for this article. From what I understand of the system, there are a few separate programs to help elderly and homeless and these often fit under the umbrella of social housing in Poland.

The major holders of social housing are indeed the cities and the TBS’s that I mentioned above.  Again, TBS’s are a form of non-profit housing provider. Our friends at Housing Europe gives some background on their website.  According to Housing Europe, while the cities are the major owners of social housing, the non-profit companies have done the majority of the building since 1996.  In fact, 79,300 units were completed by these companies from 1996-2010.

It should be noted that many people living in cooperative housing blocks were granted the rights to the property for a fraction of its value.  This took place in Estonia as well.  I am sure it happened in many other eastern bloc countries but I have not personally looked into it.

Development and Financing:

Although the TBS’s are doing most of the development, they rely on public funds to make this happen.  The public bank Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) provide the majority of funding for social units and covers 70% of the building costs. The non-profit providers cover the other 30% with their own resources.  This contribution is refunded when leaving, but gives no right to purchase. (Source: http://www.housingeurope.eu/resource-118/social-housing-in-europe)

In 2016, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo created a new affordable housing program called “Home Plus” aimed at creating more affordable housing.  However; it seems the plan is geared towards ownership less than rental.  Regardless of the type, the main aim is to provide low cost public land to bring down the price of home ownership for families.   Families who occupy the units will have 25 years to pay back the cost of building the unit.

A Note On Co-Housing-

I will not write much on this because a nice synopsis is already packed up here-https://www.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/conference-websites-dam/no-cost-housing-dam/documents/Heciak_Twardoch_Paper.pdf

I will say c0-housing or a group of people coming together to finance/fund development is another interesting method being looked at.  Take a look at the link above to learn more.   The author says in his article that looking at affordable housing is like trying to find a sector that does not exist.

Residents of Social Housing

In my experience in Europe, social housing can mean something different in each country.  In Poland, the housing is reserved for low-income households.  A person cannot own any other property and as in Germany, there is a limit on how much floor space a person can have.  Let me explain that further.  While I do not know the actual limitations in Poland, in Germany, a single family household might be limited to an apartment of 450 square feet or 45 meters squared.  Poland does seem to have some admissions requirements that will favor special populations as deemed necessary.  That is not surprising or different from many other countries.

I was hoping to figure out what the average social housing rent payment per month was for the actual tenant but did not have any luck.  Although, a short 1-pager by staff at the University of Warsaw shows that rental income often does not meet the 3% statutory limits of the property’s reinstatement values each year.  According to the author of this document, 4%-7% is the sweet spot in tenant rent payments.  Although I am not 100% sure what the author means by this, I am going to take an educated guess and means that if the rents received equal 4%-7% of the value of the property, all the maintenance can be handled and the property will for a lack of a better word, cash-flow.   Another interesting note from her document is that 41% of tenants were in rent arrears.  I am not sure if that shows a lack of property management aptitude or just a larger structural issue. Take a look here for more info-http://www.iut.nu/FindOutMore/Europe/Poland_GT_April_2015l.pdf

Conclusion:

I was speaking to a friend a few days ago about Poland and the discussion peaked my curiosity for how social housing is handled in the country.  This was only a cursory look at what is happening.  There are more resources to be found if you wish to delve deeper.

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