Desperate Measures as Housing Crisis Grips Poland

The family won't allow BIRN to publish their names nor take any photos of the apartment or building, for fear the neighbours might identify and harass them.

"We had been living on a dzialka [allotment] throughout much of the summer and autumn, but as the winter approached the management cut off the water supply and we knew we couldn't make it there with the kids during the cold season," Michal says.

The couple applied twice for social housing in Warsaw, once in 2019 and once while living on the dzialka, but they were not granted an apartment on either occasion, with bureaucrats invoking technicalities to delay the decisions.

In reality, waiting lists for social housing in the Polish capital are so long that few people have much chance of securing a place.

"I was afraid of living in an occupied flat, of course I was," says Ania. "When we moved in, the building administration even threatened us that our kids would be taken away. But living on the dzialka during winter with three kids, that was also scary."

Prices of housing, to rent and to buy, have skyrocketed in Poland over the last year, to the extent that it is becoming a major issue in the campaign ahead of the general election in the autumn. Both the government and opposition have come up with proposals to address what is now a housing crisis, but they're primarily focused on the middle class, experts say, as that's the category where most voters come from.

In the meantime, vulnerable people like Michal and his family are being left to fend for themselves and often forced into taking desperate measures.

A Ukrainian refugee plays in a new apartment building in Lodz, central Poland, 04 April 2022. The real estate company 'Opus' donated 21...

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