Polish city’s offer of cheap rent in return for renovating apartment leads to overnight queue

Residents of Kraków have queued overnight to apply for a municipal programme that allows people to rent city-owned apartments at a low rate if they agree to renovate them.

The popularity of the scheme – which attracted over ten times as many applications as there were properties available the previous two times it was run – highlights the difficulties many Poles face in finding housing amid soaring costs to buy or rent.

Poland has the EU’s second-highest annual growth in house prices.

The new @EU_Eurostat data also show Poland had the highest quarterly price growth after a mortgage subsidy scheme introduced by the government last summer stimulated demand https://t.co/iP3qKZiCje

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 27, 2024

Kraków, Poland’s second-largest city, began accepting applications for its “Apartment for Renovation” (Mieszkanie za remont) programme on Friday. However, a queue began to form in front of the municipal housing office on Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve been here since 7 p.m.,” one woman told broadcaster RMF on Friday morning. “My son took over from me, then a friend, and finally I came [back] at 4 in the morning and will be here until the end.”

Another woman joked that she “hadn’t spent the night with so many strangers in a long time”.

There was a sense of camaraderie among those in line, with one man saying they had been sharing tea, coffee, food and cigarettes with one another.

Kilkanaście osób przez całą noc stało w kolejce do urzędu miasta, by złożyć wniosek w ramach programu „Mieszkanie za remont” w Krakowie.https://t.co/plbw5wPiT2

— tvn24 (@tvn24) March 1, 2024

The city’s deputy mayor, Bogusław Kośmider, told broadcaster TVN that there was little sense in queuing overnight because all applications are assessed on an equal basis as long as they are submitted by the final deadline of 29 March.

However, one person in the queue told the TV station that, in cases where two applications are ranked equally, the one submitted first is given priority.

Asked why applications had to be submitted on paper rather than online, Kośmider said that people need advice on how to fill them in as they often make mistakes.

Polityka mieszkaniowa @krakow_pl na jednym obrazku. Wyszedłem z biura zobaczyć sytuację. Już ok. 50 osób czeka w kolejce na 7:30, gdy ruszają zapisy na „Mieszkanie za remont”. Na miejscu herbatę rozdaje kandydat @LukaszGibala. pic.twitter.com/75sdKHePa3

— Maciej Fijak (@FijakMaciej) February 29, 2024

Local politician Łukasz Gibała – who is standing for mayor in April’s local elections – visited the queue at around midnight, when around 40 people had already started waiting. He handed out tea and sweets to standing in the line.

“A queue committee has been formed,” he noted, referring to a tradition dating back to communist times, when long lines for everyday products were common and committees were established to maintain order in the queues.

“This sight is proof of how big the housing crisis is in Kraków,” said Gibała. The cost of rent in Poland grew 62% between 2015 and 2023, which was the fifth-highest rise in the OECD. The EU’s latest figures on house prices show that Poland last year recorded the bloc’s second-highest annual rise.

Estimates suggest that Poland may have a shortfall of as many as 4 million housing units. That has made entering the market difficult for young Poles, nearly half of whom live with their parents, one of the highest figures in the EU.

The cost of rent in Poland has risen 62% since 2015 – the fifth-fastest growth among @OECD countries – with a particular increase after the arrival of Ukrainian refugees.

Between 2015 to 2022, the average wage rose 24.5%, far lower than rental increases https://t.co/Ft3qzgNRF7

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 21, 2023

Kraków’s “Apartment for Renovation” programme allows people to rent an apartment owned by the city for a reduced price of between around 6 zloty to 15 zloty per square metre per month if they agree to renovate it.

That is far lower than normal rental prices in the city, which stood at an average of between 51 and 74 zloty (depending on the size of the apartment) in the second quarter of last year, according to industry news service Morator Plus.

However, there are strict requirements to qualify for Kraków’s municipal programme. Successful applicants must already be residents in the city and not own a property. They must also have at least a bachelor’s degree and an average income of between 100% and 300% of the statutory minimum pension.

Kraków first launched the scheme in 2022, when 717 people applied and 50 were successful. The second round saw 972 applications, with 100 of them accepted. By the end of Friday last week, around 350 applications had already been submitted for the new round, Kośmider told TVN.

#Krakow w marcu będzie można składać wnioski do programu „Mieszkanie za remont”. To miejski program, który umożliwia wynajem lokalu w zamian za wykonanie w nim remontu. Stawka czynszu za 1m2 mieści się w przedziale od 5,96 zł/m2 do 15,22 zł/m2. Szczegóły: https://t.co/YnrnIJwhdN pic.twitter.com/I1oVSf8IM2

— Kraków (@krakow_pl) February 7, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Łukasz Gibała/X

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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