10,000 Flats Were Built in Prague Last Year. Still Not Enough

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Almost ten thousand flats were given the green light in Prague last year. And even though this does not make up for the shortage the capital is currently facing, this fact is still worth mentioning – it is a record. The reasons are various.

Firstly, it is a reduction in the time taken to amend the zoning plan, but the coronavirus pandemic may also have played a role.

“The reality has exceeded my expectations, with the construction of 9,698 flats in Prague starting in 2021, which, as far as I know, is the highest number in the history of the independent Czech Republic,” said Adam Zábranský (Pirates), the Czech Housing Councillor, on his Twitter account.

Last year, 4,335 flats received building permits, which was a decrease compared to 2019 – when 6,487 flats were started, the most since 2008.

The chart shows that it is only the fourth time since 1997 that the seven and a half thousand permits have been exceeded. Before last year, it was in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The city’s quicker approach in amending its zoning plan probably helped.

“We were the first to drastically reduce the time it takes to address a project within the local government. Objectively, by two years,” said Petr Hlaváček, deputy for territorial development (TOP 09).

On average, from 981 days to “only” 270. According to Zábranský, a substantial part of the construction requires a change in the zoning plan.

According to Hlaváček, this is partly because the atmosphere has changed, where the town does not approach development issues negatively, but actively addresses them.

“We always try to reach an agreement, which is why we have introduced a methodology for cooperating with investors, which helps,” Hlaváček added.

These are the so-called rules for developers, according to which the city determines what the investor should do in new construction because it is needed. For example, to build a new kindergarten.

According to Zábranský, however, last year’s statistics were probably influenced by Covid. “In the second half of 2020, the number of approved apartments dropped dramatically, while the first half was good. I suppose it was just because the state administration was paralysed by the pandemic,” said Zábranský.

However, a higher number of new flats is something that Prague definitely wants to continue. “This is our goal, I have long said that we need to build at least ten thousand flats a year. In the coming years, this should be reflected in the acceleration of changes to the zoning plan, but also, for example, in construction on brownfield sites,” Hlaváček said.

Ten thousand flats is also the goal, according to Ondřej Boháč, director of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development. According to him, there is a huge internal debt in the capital and one record year will not fix it.

“The housing crisis also has a global dimension, at some point, big money moved into housing because it is a safe commodity. But we are not able to react fast enough to that. It is definitely true that there is not enough building in Prague,” Boháč said.

According to Zábranský, the record construction is definitely good news, which could be reflected in the availability of housing in the future.

“There is still a group that argues that the number of flats will not necessarily increase the availability of housing because they will be investment flats and so on. But a New York University study shows that even if the market is building only the expensive apartments, it still increases housing affordability”.

The reason is that new, more expensive apartments will be bought by wealthier people, freeing up older developments that no longer cost as much.

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