Saturday, 5 February 2011

Less Flats Built than During Communism

There has never been much nostalgia for the housing of the Communist period. Functional rather than aesthetic and sometimes built with poor quality materials, people had to wait in line to receive accomodation that was often too small for a family to live comfortably in.

Yet, despite the shortcomings of the housing provided during Communism, a significant jump forward was made in providing accomodation for the vast majority of the population. In Poland, where the legacy of occupation, division and war had left millions living in conditions of severe poverty, over 8m homes (on average 170,000 a year) were built. Facilities such as central-heating, hot-running water and electricity were made available to large swathes of the population. There was a continuous pressure to speed up the building of flats, which was partly met during the 1970s when an annual average of 270,000 flats were completed every year.

After the fall of Communism, some were able to move away from their publicly built flats and into new more spacious private accomodation. This was often situated behind walls and protected by security guards and cameras. It is a sad indictment of contemporary life in Poland that so many people now live in these gated communities. By 2008 there were over 400 gated communities in Warsaw alone.

Despite this trend another section of society has found it difficult to meet their basic housing needs. Some of the poorest in society live in run down flats built before the war. These tended to be neglected during communism and thereafter tenents of these flats have been threatened with eviction after their ownership was returned to the original owners and/or sold on to new ones.

Also a large and growing section of society - particularly young people seeking their first flat - have been pushed out of the housing market.This has partly been caused by a slowdown in the number of flats built over the past couple of decades. By 2006, only 13% of the flats and houses in Poland had been built after 1989, whilst 28.7% was constructed between 1945 and 1970 and 30.2% between 1971 and 1988. The number of flats built between 1971 and 1978 is comparable to the total amount built between 1989 and 2010. Furthermore, while the post-communist dream may have been to move into larger flats and houses, most people are seeking to buy smaller flats than those available on the market. In 2010, flats sized at 51.5 square meters were in the highest demand, while the average size of flat being offered by developers was 66.3 square meters. The difference in price is sigificant. For example, buying a flat in Warsaw with an extra bedroom adds an additional cost of around 40,000 euro - which is about 3 times the average annual salary.


  1. Do you think it would be wise for the Polish government to build brand new public housing in Warsaw, or instead to renovate existing communist-era housing?

  2. Not an expert on housing building but it does seem that both approaches are necessary. In fact much of the communist style housing is in not a bad state. The worst slum type housing are the pre-war flats, many of which are caught in an unclear ownership situation and have been neglected for decades. A programme of public housing, building affordable housing would be a great benefit for many. It would also be a good economic investment.

  3. During communism houses were built not to be rented but as ownership-type. Compared to this generation, there are many options people can choose from. The only disadvantage is the price. As years gone by there are factors affecting the housing market price. On the other hand, there are still countries with competitive prices such as singapore. For reference, follow this link:


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