Office to apartment conversion project announced
Pandemic and war in Ukraine force change
As the authors of the project point out, the development of the situation in Ukraine and the influx of refugees from that country to Poland has made it necessary to provide a significant number of residential premises; the popularity of remote and hybrid working has also reduced the need for extensive office complexes. The move of some of the stationary commerce to the Internet is also a significant phenomenon. This causes many office or retail buildings to become vacant, bringing losses to the owners and wasting unused space. This applies in particular to office buildings and large-format retail facilities with a sales area exceeding 2000 m2.
The existing law is not enough
Provisions already exist in Polish construction law that allow conversion of office and commercial buildings to residential use (change of use), but they are useful only to a limited extent. The Polish government believes that due to complicated and expensive procedures (e.g., the need to change local zoning plans), they are inadequate to the current needs. The new law is to enable the change of use of premises without unnecessary formalities.
Basic principles of the new law
The proposed new law is intended to make changes in the use of a building (office or commercial) to residential use requiring its conversion. According to the explanation included in the government legislative work list, the assumptions are as follows:
- No need for a building permit or notification in the case of reconstruction aimed at changing the manner of use (including reconstruction of external walls) except for structural elements of the building – this provision would be in force for a period of 2 years,
- Amendments to the housing special act – an exception allowing residential development regardless of the existence or arrangements of the local spatial development plan would be extended to the area where office buildings or commercial facilities with retail space exceeding 2,000 m2 are located,
- The change of use of a building under the housing special act will have to be notified to the head of the municipality (mayor, town president).
According to the government, the new law will make it possible to reclaim land attractive for housing development, currently occupied by unprofitable developments or even vacant buildings.
Impact of the proposed law
The text of the bill itself has not yet been published. Certainly, any initiative that increases supply on the housing market should be viewed positively. On the other hand, the idea of unrestricted conversion of premises into apartments, which, after all, must meet certain technical requirements, may raise doubts.
Our real estate lawyers, who specialize in construction law, will keep an eye on the further development of the proposed legislation.