Poland -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Future homeowners Adam and Joanna Robak are pictured with their twin daughters on the build site of their Habitat housing unit.
Poland joined the European Union in 2004 but, as a former member of the Eastern Bloc, Poland has to deal with the legacy left by communist economic and social policies. Despite tremendous reforms, overcrowded and damp housing without proper sanitation is still the reality for too many of Poland’s low-income working families. These families are often forgotten behind the walls of aging Soviet-style apartment building blocks.
The Economic Housing Institute research indicates that almost one in four apartments in Poland should be condemned. This sad statistic heightens the problem of Poland’s needing more than 1.5 million affordable apartments just to meet current demand. Of the existing housing stock, approximately one in eight do not have a kitchen. Almost one in ten share a toilet with an entire floor of apartments or have no indoor facility at all. With a severe affordable housing shortage, low-income families often have no choice but to live in sub-standard housing that threatens their health and safety.
Habitat in Poland
Habitat for Humanity’s work in Poland dates back to 1992 in the town of Gliwice. Since that time, four more community groups or affiliates have started in Poznań, Gdynia, Wrocław, the capital city of Warsaw, and Gdańsk, the historic center of the Solidarity movement.
Over the past years multi-family units have been the centerpiece of Habitat’s work in Poland. These buildings are built to withstand Poland’s harsh winters, while allowing plenty of sun and fresh air in spring and summer. The buildings have wooden roofs and cement foundations. The walls are made of lightweight cellular blocks chosen because they provide good thermal insulation, a solid structure and easy handling.
HFH Poland creates apartments or housing units of varying sizes in these multi-family buildings. Currently, the number of apartments in one building varies from 4 to 12. The average size of an apartment for a family of four is approximately 52 sq. m. Families have 20 years to pay off their no-interest loan, through monthly mortgage payments equal to roughly US$140. This amount is much less than the cost of the few bank loans currently available in Poland. In addition to the simple, decent and healthy housing that these apartments provide, many also share a small garden or play area for the children, creating a strong sense of community among the homeowners.
HFH Poland continues to investigate options to have a greater impact; this has lead towards plans of home and apartment renovations. Within the capital city of Warsaw, the HFH representative office is working with a housing association partner to renovate a post World War II apartment block alongside the 23 resident families.
- HFH Poland has initiated an advocacy program bringing together 15 NGO’s who plan
- form a coalition to address legislation which limits opportunities for families/homeless people to secure decent accommodation.
- Honored by the Pro Publico Bono Foundation for its work in Gliwice. HFH Gliwice was selected from over 300 other Polish non-profit organizations for its contribution to public services.
- Selected as the official Habitat for Humanity site for the start of the next 150,000 homes (Gdańsk).
- Awarded grant from Citigroup to help build more homes for families in need (Warsaw).