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Social Housing in Europe


Brussels, 27 March 2010 | Published in Research

What is social housing?

It is difficult to define what constitutes social housing in Poland. It is commonly understood that it includes rental dwellings and social rental dwellings owned by municipalities, dwellings with regulated rents provided by non-profit housing associations (called TBS) and dwellings provided by state-owned companies or the state treasury for their employees.

Usually cooperative dwellings with tenement title to use cooperative apartment (as opposite to owner-occupied title) are also considered as social housing. All “protected dwellings”, i.e. dwellings for disabled persons and other groups with special needs or shelters for the homeless constitute social housing as well.

Owner-occupied housing constructed or purchased with state aid, in particular the programme “home for every family” is also considered as social housing. In the VAT regulations there is the term of “social housing programme” as the basis for applying a lower VAT rate on building materials and services.

Who provides social housing?

In Poland, social housing in the form of municipal housing is still an important part of the stock (about 8% in 2009) but recently production of new municipal housing has almost stopped (3400 in 2010).

Since 1996 the TBS system was implemented (79300 dwellings completed, out of which 3100 in 2010). Today, there are 393 TBS companies registered, which can take several legal forms and be privately or publicly owned or present mixed ownership. Co-operatives still administer 19.4% (2009) of the total housing stock in Poland and provide two main types of tenure: owner occupied right to co-operative dwelling (83% in 2009) and tenement- type right to co-operative dwelling (17%).

How is social housing financed?

The public bank Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) currently issues preferential credits to TBS and cooperatives for construction of social dwellings. Loans cover up to 70% of project value. TBS organizations cover the remaining 30% through their own resources and often require tenants to fill a part of the gap between the cost of construction and the amount of the public loan. This contribution is refunded when leaving, but gives no right to purchase.

In August 2011, an amendment of law on TBS was accepted by the Parliament and, under certain conditions, if the landlord company wishes, some TBS dwellings may be privatized with market price. Rents are cost-based and limits are imposed by law. In housing cooperatives the tenant – who is a member of the cooperative – pays 30% of the cost upfront and then a rent that covers maintenance costs.

Municipalities mainly use their own budget to expand the stock of municipal dwellings, through new construction and acquisition of existing dwellings. Rents in municipal dwelling are set at the local level. Furthermore, municipalities can also apply for subsidies from a Subsidy Fund located in BGK for the construction and renovation of social rental dwellings for the poorest. In the case of social rental dwellings provided by municipalities, rents are maximum 50% of the municipal rent, and in this case tenants have no right to housing allowances.

Finally, the central state also subsidises municipalities and NGOs for the construction and renovation of dwellings aimed at the homeless and people with special needs. These are the so-called protected dwellings.

Who can access social housing?

Criteria vary according to the different programmes. In general, the access to social housing is based mainly on income. Tenants residing in social dwellings are families with moderate income who have no legal title to any other dwelling, who are not able to buy a place in the open market or rent a flat on market. There are also specific limitations on the floor area of the apartment to be assigned to families according to the number of persons and the special needs in communal stock.