Poland: Housing Co-operatives (1993)


      This document has been made available in electronic
     format by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA     

                       HOUSING CO-OPERATIVES

Source : Tadeusz Kowalak :  Co-operatives in Eastern and
Central Europe, Poland; Studies & Reports, Twenty-first in
series; ICA, Geneva, 1993, 58pp., price 12 Swiss Francs

The problem of housing is one of the most important and
difficult social problems of post-war Poland.  The
self-confidence of the Communist rulers, who believed that the
State was able to solve this problem single-handedly, proved
to be unjustified. Consequently, responsibility for solving
the housing problem was gradually transferred to housing
co-operatives, which have been developed into the most
important movement of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe.

In the 1980s the traditional strict differentiation between
tenants' and owners' co-operatives ceased to play any role. 
Co-operative members, being owners of their co-operative
flats, enjoy the privileges of owners of real estate, with
some limitations.  They can sell their flats independently,
the co-operative being obliged to admit the buyer to
co-operative membership.  Their flats can also be inherited
according to the regulations of the Civil Code.  Except for
the two above-mentioned rights, the position of members who
are only tenants of a co-operative flat is, within the
co-operative, the same.

At the end of 1988 there were 3,128 housing co-operatives,
three times more than in 1980, with 3,515,000 members and
113,000 employees.  They disposed of 2,926,000 flats, i.e.
about 27% of the total number of flats in Poland and 42% of
flats in urban areas.  In 1989, housing co-operatives supplied
their members with 90,000 new flats, which amounted to 48% of
the total number of new flats constructed in Poland.

Between the end of 1981 and the end of 1990 the number of
housing co-operatives increased by 3,190 units to a total of
4,500: i.e. by 343%.  The increase during 1990 amounted to 479
units, that is more than the average yearly increase during
the whole of the 1980s.  Between 1980 and 1990 membership
increased by 1,191,200, i.e. by 47.3%, of which 148,800 joined
in 1990.  Without taking into consideration those housing
co-operatives which do not own any flats yet, the number of
members amounted to 3,644,500 at the end of 1990.

This enormous increase in both the number of housing
co-operatives and in their membership was due to hopes raised
by some changes to the economic system of Communist Poland
introduced in 1980 - 82. These hopes did not materialize, due
to a lack of capital and of building plots, which stopped the
"new wave" of new housing co-operatives.  In 1991 and 1992
practically no new co-operatives of this type have been
started.  New flat-owning co-operatives have emerged only from
the division of large co-operatives into smaller ones, which
took place in 1991.

An important number of housing co-operatives, especially those
organized after 1982 are called "co-operatives for the
construction of family houses".  They are rather small
entities established mainly to organize the technical process
of construction.  Once the construction is accomplished, they
either remain to manage the properties, or are dissolved by
their members.

It is estimated that, in the middle of 1992, only 1,500 of the
formally-recognized 4,500 housing co-operatives are in
operation. The rest, i.e. about 3,000, have not been able to
commence operations, mainly because of the reasons previously
mentioned. Nevertheless, housing co-operatives noted a
relative success in the 1990s.  In 1991 they turned over to
their members 61.2% of all flats built in Poland, a
considerable increase in comparison with 1989, when the figure
was only 45%.

It should be mentioned that the total number of new flats
built in 1991 was only about half of that built in 1981.  

Until the national economy improves there is no hope for a
visible change in this respect.