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The forgotten actor of urban space. What role can housing cooperatives have?

07 of December '23

The place of housing cooperatives on the map of innovation solutions and housing development is not visible. These institutions, which directly affect the immediate environment of several million Polish women and men, are considered obsolete. However, their potential is still waiting to be realized.

As part of our #ReportThursday series, we present documents, reports and guides on architecture, cities and local government that are certainly worth publicizing and promoting. This week we look at the report "The Activity and Importance of Housing Cooperatives in Poland," issued by the IRMiR's Urban Policy Observatory. The author of the report is Hanna Milewska-Wilk.

najnowszy raport IRMiRu dotyczy roli spółdzielni mieszkaniowych

IRMiR's latest report on the role of housing cooperatives

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

place on the map

Among the many actors shaping urban policy, not only in the context of housing, but also innovation or space, housing cooperatives are still forgotten. Although this type of institution may seem outdated, it not only manages to positively surprise, but also play an important role in improving housing supply, energy transformation or improving urban spaces.

Housing cooperatives, which have existed for more than a century, played a not inconsiderable role until two decades ago - significantly shaping the housing market. Today, their participation is negligible. In the report prepared by Hanna Milewska-Wilk, we can look at cooperatives in retrospect, but also in terms of their potentials in need of change. What is worth paying attention to?

the problem of perception

One of the first pressing problems is the issue of adequate marketing, an archaic image and little knowledge of how cooperatives operate. The problem of cooperatives is their perception as ossified institutions, incapable of reform and essentially forced to stagnate. So the starting point for understanding the role of housing cooperatives should be to promote knowledge about them, explaining how they operate in accessible language and with a simple visual identity. Failure to popularize how the institution works condemns it to drift in an ocean of ignorance.

It would also be important for housing cooperatives to appear in social housing development programs, not only from the central government, but also from local governments. The problem of perception and invisibility should be the basis for improving the location of cooperatives on the map of urban policy implementation.

w Polsce według spisu REGON istnieje 3499 spółdzielni mieszkaniowych

According to the REGON census, there are 3499 housing cooperatives in Poland

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

renovators, regulators or innovators....

The most common tasks of cooperatives remain managing the premises and maintaining their good technical condition. Cooperatives are primarily concerned with technical matters and regulation, but they should not be left in a purely supervisory role.

The range of activities is and can be much broader, allowing for social and economic innovation. The report's author cites several examples that have yielded surprising results. One of them is the energy innovation introduced by the Wroclaw-South Housing Cooperative by installing photovoltaic panels, which became the impetus for the creation of the Wroclaw Solar Power Plant.

Housing cooperatives have the potential to lead other innovations - creating infrastructure for people with disabilities, adapting to climate change or arranging meeting places for the young and old.

... how about investors?

An element that should be addressed in the face of housing challenges is not only the improvement of standards within existing cooperatives, but also the creation of new housing stock. The report details that the construction of housing by cooperatives (alongside TBS, SIM and the commercial market) could be a good complement to Poland's housing supply, taking into account the fact that their offer can be more flexible and adapted to the situation in the construction sector.

Staffing also remains an issue - for the further development of cooperative investments, it is necessary to create adequate staff through specialized studies and courses. Specialized support is currently offered only in a few places in Poland.

jeszcze dwadzieścia lat temu spółdzielnie mieszkaniowe odgrywały istotną rolę w budownictwie mieszkaniowym w Polsce

As recently as two decades ago, housing cooperatives played an important role in housing construction in Poland

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

role to be defined

The report, compiled by Hanna Milewska-Wilk, is the next document in IRMiR's Housing and Social Policies series. In addition to the role of cities as housing investors and the possibility of managing the resource, cooperatives can be an element that completes the toolbox for the development of Polish housing. In the future, it will be the active, innovative cooperatives that know how to create quality places to live that will benefit the cities in which they are located.

compiled by Wiktor Bochenek

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