Can it happen that due to the price of flats, the middle class will drop out of the city and only the rich and people in municipal discounted housing will remain?
There is such a danger. I completely do not think that there is a danger that we will have millionaires and social housing in Prague. But if you look at cities like Munich, you will see that the middle class lives densely in such an outer ring around the city. We would not want to get to that stage. But there is such a danger if the situation is not resolved and construction stops.
Or continue the current trend…
… which is declining in terms of building permits. I agree. The middle class is now considering whether to buy an apartment in Prague, which can be a problem, because when it comes to families with children, they need a size of 4 + 1, for which they do not have enough money. Or you can buy a house outside Prague. But again, you have to add the cost of transport when you go to the city. Not only from Central Bohemia. From Liberec, the journey to Prague takes about an hour. By train from Pardubice and Kolín as well. This is actually a suburb of Prague.
So people can only commute to Prague, but not live in it?
It’s already happening to some extent. But we try to avoid the outflow of population and their commuting. It is a burden on transport infrastructure and the environment. The structure of the Prague population should be diverse. A strong middle class is the foundation.
How many flats must be built in Prague per year in order to avoid rising housing prices?
In 2015, we made an estimate that said that 6,000 flats must be built annually in order for this to have an impact on the market. However, given the growing debt of our housing industry since then, it is necessary to build around ten thousand flats a year. However, I cannot guarantee that the price will not rise anyway. If the city is active, we can stop the rising price or at least make it grow more sustainably.
Most of the land to be built is owned by developers. However, they cannot build in large locations due to building closures. Shouldn’t the city raise their gates so they can build quickly when the situation looks so black?
We cannot give everyone the green light. Building closures are one of the few tools the city can maintain spontaneous construction over which it will have no control. Prague has some interest in how to update. Therefore, she should first agree with the developer what he will give the city in return for allowing it to build. He will exhibit, for example, kindergartens, roads, a grove, a shopping center, offices. The developer himself earns on all this. It is also important for the city to give investors legal certainty regarding permitting processes in construction.
One of the problems with us is that you don’t even know if the project will get a permit at the end of a several-year process. And this, in turn, will be appreciated in the price of housing. The developer counts this in the costs, because he has a lot of money in the project, which he even borrowed.
Should the metropolis itself be more active in terms of construction? Buy bigger plots of land and stop them yourself?
The city should probably not be an active construction company. This is a very long learning process. If the municipality now said it wanted to go, it would set up a department at the office, where three people would be needed and they should lead the construction. It would take a waste of time for the city to learn to build properly and competitively. Rather, the city can buy a developer. For example, Munich has it, although it is also due to the post-war reconstruction of the city.
What developer? Any big Prague players who also have a lot of land, or a smaller one who has only experience?
It is about know-how. De facto, it would draw a unit that already knows the issue of development and would not have to waste time learning.
As part of the election campaign, some parties promise to build a thousand municipal flats a year. Can housing from a city that has a lower than normal rent affect the price of housing?
There are now about 600,000 housing units in Prague. Every year, 10 to 15 thousand new flats should be built. We recommend that the city build at least 500 municipal flats a year. Of course, it is a relatively small number in relation to the whole. But the mere fact that an active city enters the market gives a signal. Suddenly, a player appears – a city that is not just about profit. It is no longer the case that you buy an apartment now, because nothing will change. There is an alternative. It is mainly a change. Although it may have a slight effect on the price of housing, its sharp reduction cannot be expected.
Prague solves Airbnb and the need to regulate this service, due to which the apartments serve as hotels, offers a long-term rental offer. Can Airbnb restrictions help with housing prices?
The housing problem alone will not solve it. We are about to complete the analysis of Airbnb in Prague, which already shows that about 9,000 apartments are involved in Airbnb in Prague. And especially in the center of the metropolis. But – it is about the regulation of services, not its ban. Rules in other European cities offer that a housing unit can be offered for only half a year, or only part of the apartment.
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So Prague residents do not have to vacate the apartments in the center, because they can continue to serve Airbnb.
Yes. It does not happen that all these flats spill over into residential ones. Owners have the right to dispose of their property freely. However, Prague should not lag behind in this pan-European trend and regulate Airbnb. Almost all European cities have now reduced their restrictions. It is also a signal to people. The city knows what’s going on in its district, it wants to limit this set gray economy, which is related, and the rules.
The proposal for a new zoning plan recommends not expanding the city into the landscape, but building within its borders – on brownfields or in gaps in the center. But won’t Prague lose its face when modern buildings are created next to historic buildings?
I don’t want to make cheap comparisons, but a person’s face also changes all his life. It is clear that he is changing to die one day, which we do not want in the city. The important thing is that the face is changing, and now it’s about what features we want to keep. The city is a living organism. You will also not wear pants that do not fit you long ago, just because you have an emotional attachment to them. We must balance aesthetic value with socio-economic sustainability.
However, such decisions often do not bring positive points to the public. Do you think that politicians will go to housing solutions in Prague with such vigor?
It will be about being active with the public and developers and gaining trust. So that no one will irritate anyone. But it is always good to remember that people get something for interfering with comfort. When the new streets stop the view of the fields, you should benefit from them by adding around a kindergarten, library and restaurant. The emerging political set needs to step up to the current situation and step in. At the same time, the city must set the direction it will take and adhere to it. At the same time to discuss with the state a change in legislation, with the city districts on functional cooperation. It may be bloody someday. But it is necessary. This is a problem that, according to my new city management, is appalling. There is not just one magic button that you press and the situation will be solved. It’s more like a big DJ desk. You have to move with the individual sliders and listen. It’s about working all evening. You can’t just let go and have a drink.