Amid a Czech housing crisis, could shared homes be the future?

The Czech Republic faces a severe housing shortage, so novel solutions are being considered.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 25.04.2022 15:54:00 (updated on 25.04.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Times are hard for those looking to buy or build a new home. Mortgage rates are rising and construction costs are high, making it even tougher to take out a housing loan from the bank.

Amid the crisis in the supply of affordable housing, novel alternatives are being discussed to allow more people an ownership stake in their homes. One proposal which is picking up steam is the possibility of shared housing.

This system is already popular in other Central European cities, including Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg, and Munich where shared housing schemes typically involve a group of co-owners jointly financing the construction of a new building with certain communal spaces such as a kitchen, dining room, garage, workshop, or garden.

One of the reasons given for the lack of shared housing in Czechia compared to its Central European neighbors is the country’s communist past leading to an aversion towards collective projects.

Under communism, shared housing projects were created but they were “imposed from above,” in the words of Václav Orcígr, from the Arnika Association. In countries like Germany and Austria, though, shared housing projects have been initiated “from below”; meaning groups of potential buyers took the initiative to buy a property for the purpose of sharing it and saving costs.

Surveys are now being conducted in the Czech Republic to establish public interest in such housing initiatives. The cities of Liberec and Hrádek nad Nisou are participating in a viability study for shared housing projects run by the Technical University of Liberec, the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Arnika Association, and Brno’s Masaryk University.

In addition to Liberec and Hrádek, four other towns and municipalities, Opava, Psáry, Jihlava, and Pardubice, will participate in participatory housing research.

“We are currently working out what people are willing to share and how they can work together to save on housing costs in the future,” said Tomáš Hoření Samec, a sociologist from the Academy of Sciences.

Experts note that shared housing is a multi-faceted concept where in one scenario housemates work together to fund a construction project, or in a second scenario, buy a piece of real estate and, in both cases, decide which areas of the property they would be happy to share.

Researchers suggest prospective homeowners could see significant savings if they choose to buy through a shared-housing system. Carsharing and babysitting in cases where the owners know one another are considered to be additional benefits of shared housing arrangements.

Given that the Czech National Bank’s decision to increase the base interest rate to five percent has driven up the price of mortgage loans, and new rules for taking out a mortgage have made it especially difficult for those aged 36 and over to buy their own home, home-sharing could have a bright future here. Particularly for middle-aged people with average or below-average earnings.

On the other hand, researchers point out that the shared-housing lifestyle tends to appeal more widely to younger people. This is certainly the case in Psáry, a municipality outside of Prague, where a proposal to build shared flats for young incoming school teachers is being considered.

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