In a cozy sunny afternoon, there was a group of people gathering in the yard of a house in Prague, chatting and laughing happily. Some of them were updating what had happened last week with each other, and some were talking about whether they should try to fix their broken washing machine or just buy a new one. You may probably assume that this is a delightful family gathering, but actually they are a group of roommates who began as a collection of strangers, hoping to create, in essences, a community.
Shared housing, or so-called co-housing, is a kind of living style which is built up with individuals to share housing spaces. People who live in the co-housing apartments or houses share the spaces and resources in order to reduce their rents and daily costs. In addition, shared housing provides a warming environment for people to be together, to communicate, to share their daily life and to support each other. It helps build connections with every individual, as they are not living alone in the big city anymore. This idea of co-housing originates from Denmark, and then spread out to Northern Europe, United States, England and Australia.
In Prague, an organization called SDÍLENÉ DOMY has been promoting this issue for a while. They started running their program in 2015, and “Vlaštovka”, meaning “Swallow” in English, is the name of their first housing project, and the word is also a symbol of new beginning in Czech language. The Vlaštovka project is still ongoing now, which is scheduled to complete in two years. “We are now working on the legalization of our co-housing program. We already bought a house here in Prague, when this project starts to have people live in the house, it would have 25 people come from different backgrounds, ages and even nationalities living together.” said Adéla Zicháčková, the director of SDÍLENÉ DOMY. The Vlaštovka project would also have some public place open for the residences or neighbors, which may be a café, bookstore or bar.
Imagine what would this be like when 25 people who come from different backgrounds living in a co-housing together? Adéla Zicháčková mentioned her experience of living in the shared house in London, “It’s a diverse community but more like a sweet family. People took care of each other, and I met many interesting people there.” In recent years, they have also worked together with local housing organizations and sought for support from some political parties, hoping to make their plans work better.
Prague is one of the best cities to study abroad in Europe. It is not only a very cultural city, but also a vibrant place that attracts people to pay a visit, so many young people came here to build up their dreams and start new life. However, it is not easy to survive in this city due to its skyrocketing prices in housing. According to the Czech Central Bank, the average growth rate of apartment prices in Czech was almost 16% in each quarter of 2017. The affordability of apartments is deteriorating, especially in Prague the growing housing price is so unaffordable. What is making this condition worse is that AirBnB here in Prague has a huge amount of occupancy in housing.
The demands of housing are growing constantly along with the growth of population in Prague. The housing issue has obviously become a big worry to locals and to the government. The Prague City Hall is planning to build council houses in several places in the city, such as Cerný Most, trying to improve the housing situation. There are also local organizations like SDÍLENÉ DOMY who are working hard for the housing issue in Prague. Hopefully with everyone’s work the accommodation problem will improve, and this amazing city will enable more people to stay.