_________________________________________________________ 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.