The housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges of recent years. That is why those in power come up with new ideas to help the young people to leave the parental home. Unfortunately, PiS’s flagship program (Mieszkanie+) has not yielded any spectacular results. The idea of building homes of up to 70 m2 without permission also turned out to be a flop. But the government is proposing its… expansion. Will it give Poland a place to live?
The housing shortage is one of the biggest problems in our country. Despite successive records in the number of flats delivered to the market in recent years, we are struggling with their shortage. Unfortunately, the situation on the housing market has deteriorated further since the beginning of this year. High interest rates caused many Poles to lose credit and the rising prices of building materials destroyed their dream of owning a house.
PiS’s flagship idea – Apartment + – envisioned the construction of 100,000 new apartments by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, as of October last year, there were only 15,000 completed units and a further 20,000 under construction. According to the Court of Audit, the reasons for the failure of the program are the lack of coherent legal solutions and the general organizational powerlessness of civil servants and politicians.
The state cannot build houses. Are people going to build their own house?
The government recognized its incompetence in building houses and decided to hand over this task to the people. From the beginning of this year we can build small houses without a permit (as long as the surface does not exceed 70 m2). After the announcement of the changes in construction law, the internet was in a hurry. Some people were afraid that we would get a huge spatial chaos.
Even then I came to the conclusion that there would be no revolution. You can read my January analysis here. The idea that soon everyone will be able to build a house on simplified principles did not interest me, because building without an official permit has been possible for a long time. Most Poles do not make use of this option anyway, as they prefer to have a certificate on paper that construction is possible.
However, the new law introduced more simplifications. Besides not having a permit to build a cottage, you also don’t need a construction manager or construction log. Thanks to this, we can even save several thousand zlotys. And this, of course, is an advantage, although it can be fatal, which will be discussed in a moment.
Building without formalities? The reader checked it the hard way
One of the readers recently informed us about his adventures with the construction of the mini-house. And at the beginning of his comment, he called it an ordeal. Originally he wanted to build a house with a surface of 90 m2, but he was seduced by the legendary “70 m2 without formalities”.
The plot of our reader was subject to zoning conditions, which allowed the construction of a house between 35 m2 and 130 m2. However, the design he chose for the 70 m2 house did not fully comply with the other ground development guidelines, so he requested a new one. The officials accepted our hero’s request and the building conditions were changed.
Unfortunately, after their introduction, the construction of a small house proved impossible, as most of the buildings on the plots surrounding the area are about 150 m2. The semi-smaller house did not fit into the environment. Development plans and building conditions are created to avoid spatial chaos, which the opponents of the new rules feared.
Our reader describes the whole act as nonsense. “House without a permit” is really just the lack of a construction manager and technical acceptance (saving several thousand zlotys). And the fact that you don’t need a building permit is irrelevant in a situation where the construction of the house can be prevented by a lot of other regulations that remain in force: building conditions and spatial development plan (local plan).
A house without a permit? Only for the rich, because of the wire loan
However, these are not the only drawbacks of the government’s “home without consent” program. The main problem may be the financial barrier. When introducing a new program, the government announced that anyone could build such a house. Even those who cannot afford to buy an apartment. Unfortunately, a small house does not mean low cost at all. Especially because the prices of building materials have risen sharply lately, about which I wrote more here.
Even a small house (without the cost of land) should cost several hundred thousand zloty (on some project websites they say it’s 200,000 zloty or a little more). Where can we get so much money if we don’t save much? Your first thought may be a bank and a mortgage. However, it turns out that the matter is not so simple in this case. When applying for a loan to build a house, banks ask us to provide a construction log, in which the construction manager will certify the proper completion of the following stages.
In the case of using the government program to build a house up to 70 m2 … we do not have such a document at all. So we save a few thousand zlotys on the lack of a manager and on the project (if we use the database of free projects provided by the Ministry of Development), but we have no money for the implementation of the investment, because we cut off the loan.
There is also the issue of security. Since the house was built without professional supervision – and this is the basic feature of the government’s “unlicensed home” program – securing such real estate is not attractive to a bank. All the more there is no chance of getting a loan.
Another point is the provisions relating to the purpose of the property. When deciding to build a house up to 70 m2, we must submit a statement in which we declare that the house will be used exclusively for our own residential purposes. Although the government also ensures that the house can be sold in the future, this provision can discourage potential investors.
The government also wades into the controversial ‘house without permission’
So it seems that canceling the building permit and the building manager has more disadvantages than savings. Many potential investors have come to such conclusions, as evidenced by the low level of interest in the program. From the beginning of the year to the end of May, only 301 people took advantage of the opportunity to build a house up to 70 m2 without a permit. By way of comparison: all building permits for real estate in Poland were issued at the time, more than 42,000.
However, the ministry does not care about the bad data and continues to believe in success. During the recently organized conference that summarized the program of building houses without permission, Minister Waldemar Buda tried to convince that the simplified procedure was working well, therefore similar rules will be extended to larger houses.
From the beginning of next year we will no longer need a building permit, regardless of the size. We are only limited by the number of floors, for homes with more than two floors a permit is still required.
In contrast to homes up to 70 m2, you do need a construction manager and a construction journal. On the other hand, the rules for the acceptance of the building are simplified. From January, the manager himself decides whether the property is habitable.
A house without a permit? Or maybe faster permission?
Will the new change really help us build houses faster and more efficiently? Unfortunately, the level of my enthusiasm is close to that of January, when I delved into the details of the cottage program without permission. Mostly because a house can be built in our country for a long time without a permit. It is enough to send the application with all documents and after 21 days we can put the first shovel in the ground. But hardly anyone uses this principle.
Why? As I said – because most investors have little faith in the institutions that operate in our country and don’t want much have a document confirming the ability to start construction. This gives us confidence that our documents have been thoroughly checked and that no one will block our investment due to an oversight during the construction process.
Certainly, the direction of change that consists in simplifying the rules when building a house is good. But perhaps instead of completely revoking the building permit, it is better to give the offices approval faster. In theory, we wait up to 65 days for a permit, and in many cities, offices even issue permits within this period or even faster.
There are also areas where the waiting times are much longer. The Registrar can question our documents and send us a request for replenishment by mail, and we have a limited time to fill the gaps. Such action extends the entire process by additional weeks.
Building a house, or administrative absurdities
I know what I’m talking about. Admittedly, when I was building the house, the permitting process was completed in a month, but I had some issues with the acceptance. The chimney sweep, who checked the correctness of the installation, noted on the certificate the valid home address, which was assigned in advance by the office. However, we have used the lot number for all previous documents. Construction supervisors did not like this inaccuracy.
Two weeks after submitting the documents needed to pick up the house, I received a letter of advice in my mailbox. To pick up the mail, I had to go to the facility during work hours (which were also my work hours). When I found out what was going on, I had to make a photocopy of the address, go to the post office again (again during my work hours) and mail the document. After a few days it reached the construction supervision and I got the official delivery of the building.
And yet it would have been easier. The documents to be retrieved contain my e-mail address and telephone number. A quick phone call to inquire about the officer’s doubts would suffice. I was able to quickly expel them by sending an email confirming the sending address. The whole confusion can last half an hour instead of two weeks and unnecessary work: mine, people in the office and those at the post office.
Therefore, I observe with little enthusiasm the following changes to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, the rulers are looking for the problem in the wrong place. Let us know in the comments what absurdities you encountered during construction and let us know if you think simplified procedures could help future investors.
source of the title photo: Luke Stackpoole / Unsplash