On 26th April 2017, Habitat for Humanity Poland held the Second Housing Forum – an annual advocacy conference addressed to central and local government members, housing experts, representatives of the business sector, non-governmental organizations and all people interested in housing policies.
The conference was attended by over 100 people, including representatives of the key ministries responsible for the housing policy in Poland. The opening remarks were given by the event organizers:
Magdalena Ruszkowska-Cieślak, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Poland, who noted that housing issues have become much more prominent in the public debate since the former edition of the Forum in 2016.
Jerzy Klimm, Director of Wienerberger (the business partner of the Forum), who observed that decent housing is not only well-situated, but also constructed of solid, high-quality construction materials.
The representatives of the central government commented on the current changes of the housing policy in Poland:
Stanisław Kudroń (Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction) presented the National Housing Program and pointed out its main principles: support for not only ownership but also rental (including social rental housing), development of supported housing and housing solutions for seniors, changes in the relevant laws (such as the act on housing cooperatives).
He also referred to the previous report by Habitat Poland: „In the 2015 report by Małgorzata Salamon and Alina Muzioł-Węcławowicz, there was a diagnosis of where we were and how – according to the authors – the housing policy should be developed. Over the past 2 years the public debate on housing has moved to a new level as the government approved the National Housing Program. Now it is possible to compare the subjects which the government and the parliament are working on with the recommendations from 2 years ago. A large proportion of those recommendations are already included in the National Housing Program.”
Dominika Tadla (Ministry of Development) noted the government’s increasing support for innovative projects which integrate social welfare policy and housing policy. She presented examples of grant project competitions which are organized by the Ministry of Development to provide funding for housing innovations. One of them is the competition for municipalities wishing to develop Social Rental Agencies, which is to be held in the second half of the year.
Stanisław Trociuk (Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights) discussed the subject of housing policy in the context of human rights. He pointed out several aspects of the Polish housing policy which require revision if they are to guarantee respect for the basic human rights. He mentioned, among others, the need to modify regulations related to evictions, as they currently violate the right to dignity.
The keynote speech was given by Jozsef Hegedus, Director of Metropolitan Research Institute, member of the European Network for Housing Research. He discussed ‘Housing regime changes in new member states after the global financial crisis.’ He presented the ways in which housing has changed in Central and Eastern European countries after the communism fell and the capitalist economy was introduced. He discussed housing policies in various countries of the region and pointed out that those policies sometimes led to increasing, instead of decreasing, of social inequalities. He advised reforms based on the existing housing stock (such as the development of Social Rental Agencies) noting they are most likely to be effective and lead to tangible changes in housing regimes.
The speeches were followed by a series of panel discussions. Their subjects were aligned with the contents of the latest report by Habitat for Humanity Poland: “Housing in Poland. Best practices.” The report had its premiere at the Forum and presented best practices related to 7 areas which have a profound impact on the housing situation in Poland:
- Supported housing
- Prevention of rent arrears in municipal housing
- Social Rental Agencies
- Housing cooperatives
- Social rental housing
- Energy poverty
- Spatial policy