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Nearby Wola. Pathfinder or a millenialists' dream come true?

Kacper Kępiński
25 of March '21

Developers are flooding the market with offers to sell micro-apartments. The flats, which are only a dozen square meters in size, are presented as a dream come true for millenials, who place a premium on independence and urban living. Meanwhile, in reality, micro-apartments are the result of pathologies in urban planning and the physical dimension of real estate speculation. In extreme situations, they take on forms such as in Warsaw's Bliska Wola housing development, hailed as the "Polish Hong Kong" due to its overwhelming scale and density.

Investment units or apartments?

Bliska Wola

photo by Kacper Kepinski

Developers offer "investment units." They resemble apartments - they have a space divided into living, kitchen and sanitary areas, windows and an entrance, and often have furniture drawn out. However, they do not meet the standards stipulated for residential units. You can live in such premises, but you can't register in them. It has the status of a commercial premises and, of course, can be rented as an apartment, but a person with a mortgage will not buy it. Such a situation is the aftermath of the law changes introduced in 2018. At that time, the minimum area of an apartment was set at 25 sqm And although it seems not much, developers are offering rooms of several meters as studios. Investment units are thus nothing more than a physical dimension of a financial instrument, a real estate investment in which the quality of space is irrelevant.

Warsaw's Hong Kong

Bliska Wola

photo by Kacper Kepinski

One of the most talked-about investments of 2020 has become the Bliska Wola estate, located on Kasprzaka Street. The estate, erected by J.W. Construction, was designed by studio B.A.U. Hailed by the press and urban activists as the "Polish Hong Kong," it makes an overwhelming impression. The overwhelming scale of the buildings reaches 93 meters in height. The cramped effect is compounded by the enormous density of the buildings and the short distances between them. The blocks are planned to contain 380 commercial units and 1,000 apartments, including 18-meter-high "investment mini-apartments." Their prices oscillate around 15 thousand zlotys per square meter. Such shaping of the estate's space was possible, among other things, due to the introduction of non-residential investment units in the most shaded areas. In response to media interest, Jozef Wojciechowski - Chairman of the Supervisory Board of J.W. Construction Holding S.A., published a letter in which he presented his view of the rather notorious construction.

A housing development that young people want?

Bliska Wola

photo by Kacper Kepinski

From the developer's statement, we learn that the development responds to the demand of the market and the expectations of young people. According to Wojciechowski, these are people who have chosen to live in smaller, often rented apartments because of the need for mobility and comfort, and to live close to work.

"The developer cannot be indifferent to these needs, he adapts to the market situation, and builds both very small and very large apartments."

Bliska Wola

photo by Kacper Kepinski

Small apartments are also on the radar of investors, because it's the safest form of investing so-called financial surpluses in years. According to the investor, the development fits in with current lifestyle trends,

"for example, the minimalism popular among young people (...). Generation Y people often spend most of their time away from home. They want to meet with friends, play sports and devote themselves to their passions."

planning pathologies

Bliska Wola

photo by Kacper Kepinski

The solution to this situation and the only safeguard for the public interest and the quality of residential space, according to government officials, are local plans. "Such investments must be fought against. The solution is first and foremost local plans," said Deputy Minister Anna Kornecka, responsible for construction, urban planning and housing. This statement would not be without basis, if it were not for the fact that Bliska Wola is being developed based on the current zoning plan. This raises the issue of the questionable quality of the plans being developed in Poland, which allow such a pathological space to be realized. In this way, areas have already been planned in Poland that can accommodate buildings for 200 million people. These estimates do not seem to take into account the investment creativity of developers.

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