Zdenek Hrib.

Mayor of Prague, CZ

An Interview.
By Karin Zauner. 
Co-Founder of Housing4Europe.Org

Q: Is housing in Prague affordable for people on average incomes?

Zdenek Hrib
The sad reality is that in the past six years the selling prices of new flats have doubled. The current average gross salary in Prague is approximately 43.000 CZK monthly. The average 70m2 flat costs 7,7 million CZK. Many of the municipal flats have been privatized in the previous years so the city has not enough influence on the apartment rental market. The flat shortage and high housing prices are one of the main problems of the capital for the majority of its citizens. We are very much aware of it. Improvement of the housing situation in Prague is one of the main priorities of the current municipal coalition. Therefore, the city has been undertaking several steps to boost affordable housing for its citizens.

Q: To what extent are Airbnb and other rental platforms shortening the housing stock for locals in your city?

Zdenek Hrib
Airbnb used to be one of the main factors leading to the increase in housing prices and shortening of the housing stock mainly in Prague’s city centre. Nevertheless, the covid-19 crises have changed the situation significantly. According to current data, the number of flats designated for short-term rent has fallen from March 2020 to December 2020 by 45 %. In the Old Town, the rent has fallen by up to 40 %. By the way, we also observe the influence of the covid-19 crisis on the housing stock on municipal data platform Golemio. However, we had been concerned with Airbnb even before the pandemic. In our long-term opinion, it should not be an unregulated business, otherwise, its negative effects would eat the city alive. Therefore, we put a lot of effort into legislative proposals to the Czech parliament. One of them has already successfully passed.

Q: Which measures to boost affordable housing have been implemented by the City of Prague?

Zdenek Hrib
Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to this problem, the situation will not change overnight. The only way to provide affordable housing is a long-term rational housing policy and complex strategy including a wide range of measures. For instance, the acceleration of commercial development, support to non-commercial housing projects and more efficient usage of municipal housing capacity. The city has been working hard for example on the reconstruction of municipal flats, preparation for the new residential development in the former brownfield areas, the establishment of contact centres in the municipal districts in order to help people in need and so on. We are also negotiating some property swaps with the state. We are striving towards obtaining buildings and land which we can convert into residential quarters with affordable municipal housing.

Q: How will Prague modernise its old housing stock in order to achieve climate targets?

Zdenek Hrib
The acceleration of the sustainable modernisation of the building stock is amongst the core priorities of the Climate Plan for Prague 2021 – 2030. We have recently established the position of an Energy Efficiency Manager within Prague city hall. Sustainable modernisation of the housing stock is one of their key tasks. Prague is also preparing a Prague Renewable Energy Community – an infrastructure of city buildings, schools and private buildings producing energy from solar panels and distributing it within Prague’s energy infrastructure. This will be an innovative way to use municipal buildings to boost renewable energy production in the city. The Czech Republic is eligible to apply for the Modernisation fund, an EU funding programme dedicated to supporting 10 lower-income EU member states in their transition towards climate neutrality. Prague is ready to use this funding opportunity as much as possible. The energy efficiency of public buildings is one of the core categories for this funding facility.

Q: What kind of support mayors in general, and you specifically, expect from EU institutions to be able to increase investments in affordable housing?

Zdenek Hrib
For instance, the EU can play an important role in regulating short term rental platforms, e. g. Airbnb. Together with representatives of Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and several other cities, I had a chance to discuss some of the main issues related to the short-term holidays’ rentals with the European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager. Cities need to be able to regulate short term holiday rentals and need to be able to guarantee our citizens that their city will be safe and that the quality of life will be on a high level, even in the parts of the city which are popular amongst tourists.