44. Team for Solving Social Problems in the Field of Housing
As already mentioned, after the political transformation in 1989, an attempt was made to return real estate property to pre-war owners or their successors, as well as to privatise the new buildings. This resulted in numerous problems, which are now influencing the situation of the inhabitants of the city. These factors led to the emergence of a particularly vulnerable group of inhabitants of Warsaw – those living in tenement houses belonging to the municipal housing resources, which are currently being returned to the pre-war owners of these buildings.
44.1. Short description
The largest (and perhaps the only) innovation in the housing policy of the city is the undertaking of negotiations between the representatives of the city and the tenant and squatter organisations, concerning the appointment of the Team for Solving Social Problems in Housing, Re-privatisation and Counteracting Homelessness and Social Exclusion. A project of this kind was been filed at the city council by tenant organisations 2 years previously; however, there was no response. In the opinion of the tenant organisations, this proves that the city authorities were never really interested in tenants and their problems and they did not treat them seriously. This may also be proven by the fact that in 2010, the Municipal Office initiated the “Warsaw Housing Meetings”, which were to serve as a space for discussion on housing problems and solutions to these; in the end, the city was only willing to present its point of view and it failed to take into account the opinions or objections of the tenant organisation representatives or to refer to the problems reported by them. As a result, all tenant organisations decided not to participate in the meetings, which were then suspended, as there was no one willing to attend.
Within the framework of changes in the housing policy of the city, in April 2012, the Team for Solving Social Problems in Housing, Re-privatisation and Counteracting Homelessness and Social Exclusion was established in the city of Warsaw, with representatives of the city and social groups and NGOs. The team’s aim is at proposing new initiatives and providing advisory services. Even though the fact that it has been established has been received positively by all parties to the process, our interlocutors have pointed out that the mere creation of the team does not mean that it truly has a say in the creation of policy.
44.2. Conceptions and ways of addressing users
The aim of the team is to serve as an advisor to the city authorities in the field of housing policy. The team is there to represent all of the parties concerned, that is, the city authorities, the real estate management and representatives of tenants and of private building owners. Moreover, during the meeting, discourse was initiated on the most significant social problems and the possible solutions, which can be continued during the subsequent meetings. The issues of vacant buildings were discussed, as well as the compensation agreements, reprivatisation, informing tenants of the current reprivatisation processes, concerning the apartments inhabited and article 678 of the Civil Code.
44.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
The organisation of the team is based on a series of meetings aimed at building dialogue between the parties concerned by the housing policy. All parties have given expressed their willingness to continue the dialogue. So far, it has been attended by:
- The vice president of the Capital City of Warsaw,
- Representative of the Social Communication Centre,
- Representative of the Warsaw Tenants Associations,
- Representative of the Tenant Defence Committee,
- Representatives of squatter groups (Syrena, Przychodnia),
- Representative of the Office for Social Justice (an NGO supporting tenants).
44.4. Interaction with the local welfare system
The team has been established in response to the negative consequences of the return of the tenement houses in Warsaw to their former owners and their legal successors. Tenants, having no legal protection, are being removed under the pressure of rent charges being raised without any limitations, sometimes by threat or menace. The former owners and their successors, on the other hand, complain about the unclear criteria for return of the real estate property and the long-term proceedings. Their claims block city investment projects. On the other hand, specialised law offices and firms, which buy out the rights and claims to real estate property, have been operating with striking efficiency – regaining tenement houses has become a very profitable business. This situation results in very negative consequences for the tenants, as well as the city, as it damages the urban tissue and threatens the public interest.2
The team deals with housing management, including the municipal housing resources of the capital city of Warsaw, which also includes social building, reprivatisation and its social effects, counteracting social exclusion due to loss of apartment, management of vacant buildings in the capital city of Warsaw and building and developing new forms of dialogue between the local communities in the city of Warsaw and the authorities of the city.