Poland’s government is looking to introduce a tax on vacant properties in an effort to help families find accommodation and to avoid investors deliberately keeping apartments empty.
“We know there is a problem of uninhabited properties on the market,” said deputy development minister Piotr Uściński, quoted by Business Insider Polska. “We cannot allow it to be a mass problem when new apartments would be left empty, waiting for their value to increase, and not be rented out.”
“It is important that the apartments that are built on the Polish market go to Polish families and that these families can live in them,” said the official. Last week, Uściński told news website Interia that the government was working on a definition of a “vacant property” as a basis for the new legislation.
“Defining so-called flipping [when investors purchase a property not to use, but with the intention of selling it for a profit] and separating it from ordinary transactions is not easy,” said Uściński, adding that the practice should also become less widespread as house prices stabilise.
Relative to other European countries, Poland has a relatively low share of vacant dwellings in both rural (11%) and urban (around 6%) areas, according to data from the OECD.
In a 2020 report, experts from Rynek Pierwotny, a real estate news site, also estimated that around 55,000 communal flats in Poland were vacant, largely as a result of local authorities lacking funds for renovation. By the end of 2019, some 150,600 families were waiting for social housing.
While Uściński outlined the possibility of a tax on empty dwellings, he reiterated previous assurances by the government that it was not planning to introduce a cadastral tax that would be paid by all property owners. Current levies are set by local authorities and capped at a per-metre limit by the finance ministry.
Maria Wilczek is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She is a regular writer for The Times, The Economist and Al Jazeera English, and has also featured in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Spectator and Gazeta Wyborcza.