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The rent gap in Poland, or the queue for M.

01 of March '24
w skrócie
  1. The rent gap has reached 70%
  2. In Krakow, the queue for the "Apartment for Renovation" program was already lined up the day before
  3. Stories of millenials show that this generation is slowly losing hope for its M.
  4. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the AiB portal

Therent gap is a situation in which people with low to moderate incomes are unable to meet their housing needs. They cannot afford to buy an apartment with their own savings or with a mortgage, or to rent a unit at market prices. At the same time, they exceed the income criteria for eligibility for municipal or social housing. According to estimates by the Habitat for Humanity Poland Foundation, the rent gap affects as much as 40 percent of Polish society. As of 2023, this statistic has risen to 70 percent, according to analysts from the Warsaw School of Economics.

The deepening of the rent gap in Poland is becoming increasingly noticeable. The increase in prices of consumer goods, fees and real estate is not matched by the amount of minimum and average wages. Although in 2024 the minimum wage was raised from PLN 3600 gross to PLN 4242 gross, further few people can afford an apartment. The average price of 1 square meter of usable floor area of a residential building for the fourth quarter of 2023 was PLN 6386. We have a huge housing deficit, especially in the segment of social rental housing. The average number of apartments per 1,000 population for Poland as a whole in 2021 was 405.2 units, which, in relation to other countries in Europe, places us in the tail of countries with the lowest housing availability. There is a shortage of about 2.1 million housing units, and by 2030 there could be a shortage of up to 2.7 million.

The recommendation of the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) indicates that the monthly mortgage installment cannot exceed half of our salary. From this, it follows that the other half of the salary would have to be enough for housing maintenance fees and current expenses. It is not hard to guess that for many people this is impossible. Providing a roof over one's head has been dumped on the citizen, who has to cope in a world of raging real estate prices. With insufficient state and local government support for those in the rent gap, many people feel no support from the government. Municipalities postulate that they do not have enough funds to build new communal or social housing, and the number of people in need continues to grow.

In Krakow, people are literally waiting on the street at night to apply for "Housing for Rehabilitation."

The "Housing for Rehabilitation" program allows the rental of communal housing units for an indefinite period of time in exchange for carrying out repairs in them at the applicant's expense. The rental rate ranges from PLN 5.96 to PLN 15.22 per square meter. In this year's edition, the City handed over one hundred apartments. The deputy mayor of Krakow in charge of housing policy - Boguslaw Kosmider, in an interview with, said that in order to avoid accusations of discretionary decisions, a rule has been introduced that if some people have an equal number of points, the order of registration of the application will decide.

I am talking to Malgosia*, who is trying for the third time in this program to get an apartment. She tells me that she literally ran here when her friend, passing by the office the day before applications were due in the afternoon, saw that a line was already forming. She took her place. Gosia tells me that despite spending the night on the street, she still doesn't know if she will receive housing. This is because she is a single mother, and the extra points in the application are for having a partner with a higher education. In the morning I ask her what the situation is.

Papers submitted, it remains to wait. It's been a long time since I experienced such humiliation. On top of that, one of the presidential runners brought fudge and hot water ," she says.
I came at 7:30 and I'm 231st in line ," Kasia throws me.

She hopes she will be able to get in and apply today, because there is a chance the office will be closed a few people ahead of her. She is at the limit of the current capacity, at 1 pm there are still sixty people in front of her.

Ilustracja 2

Illustration 2

© Magdalena Milert

The consequences of the rent gap are serious, both for those who are in it and for society as a whole. The rent gap negatively affects quality of life, health, sense of security and stability, as well as professional and educational development. I'm talking to Anna, whose husband is working, but she can't find a job, on top of that she has health problems.

We are a 2+1 family, we can't afford credit or rent. We live in a townhouse, 43 sq. m. in a room + room with a kitchenette arrangement. We all sleep in one room. The apartment is rented from a family that claims it will be ours someday, but does absolutely nothing about it.

Ania says that "we should probably wait until they die." She feels she is in a stalemate.

Paulina, my next caller, confides in me that she is a typical millennial.

I'm the one in the rent gap, who until a certain point was always one step away from her dream apartment , she says .

She was always a little short of money for her own contribution, and being on her own business due to pandemonium and tightening regulations, despite raising the required amount, she wasn't catching on with her creditworthiness, because the lack of an employment contract suddenly changed everything.

Now I have an employment contract, but the rates have gone so high that this contribution is no longer worth anything, and also the ceiling of earnings to catch with the ability has gone up. I am a person with a doctorate, working in the clinical research industry. No chance for my own.

Anita says she bought an apartment after the end of 2019. Rental prices were rising, and she could afford a thirty-square-meter studio in the best-case scenario. On top of that, the landlords' restrictions - you can't change anything, not even period furniture. Renting made it virtually impossible to save money.

I was finally creditworthy at the time, but I borrowed from my family for my own contribution ," she recalls. She bought her small apartment from the secondary market to live in right away, not to finish it from scratch. Her studio apartment - less than fifty square meters - and the loan installment with fees cost her less than it currently costs to rent even a room. I realize that at current prices per meter I would not be able to afford a similar purchase ," she concludes.

The solution to the rent gap, although slowly breaking through on government promises, is for now in the realm of dreams for most citizens. Legal, institutional, financial and organizational changes are needed to build and provide housing that is affordable to low- and middle-income people. I wrote more extensively about proposed solutions in this article. The example from Krakow shows exactly how many people want any kind of roof over their heads.

Magdalena Milert

*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

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