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by Michał Poręcki | Report

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many widespread changes in the booming Polish residential market. Demand for larger, greener apartments and the need to amend real estate law are only a few of them, said speakers during the discussion panel of Living Investment Forum 2021, Property Forum's annual event in Warsaw. 

One of the most obvious effects of the pandemic turmoil in the Polish property market is a growing demand for green areas in the living space. „Today we are much wiser than we were 18 months ago. I think we have completely rediscovered the way we live in the city. We started to reflect on what is the role of the product that we are delivering to our clients. We’ve started to see much bigger interest in ground floor apartments. They became more attractive because people started to look for not only the possibility to work in a small garden but also to have contact with nature. We started to think about what is the role of greenery in real estate investment. We are considering building vertical gardens and more garden areas in the common spaces of our investments”, said Waldemar Olbryk, CEO of Archicom.

Roee Shamir, Managing Director of Aurec Capital Poland pointed out that the need for green space goes on a par with the demand for larger apartments. „During pandemic times, we have been observing a bigger demand and a shift toward larger apartments and more common areas. This is something that we’ll implement in all of our projects right now. We try to be very much ahead of the ongoing trends”, said Roee Shamir.

The pandemic should also boost the popularity of mixed-use investments, offering various services in the vicinity of the living space. „Currently, people are forced by COVID-19 to stay in their flats, to communicate remotely and they are really struggling to have fun. And they would like to have everything in one place. That ‘zero-kilometre’ concept is now growing really fast,  even faster than before. People just want to have everything in one place where they live, have good food and a place for communication, a place to have also some entertainment”, said Sergiy Stoliarchuk, CEO of Maxify.

Grażyna Kuźma, Partner, Head of Real Estate in Poland at Taylor Wessing is of the opinion that the COVID-19 restrictions will accelerate the changes in the way developers are realizing their investments. „From one day to another, our life changed completely. We can see this tendency among the customers of our clients – people want to go outside of the city. It used to be very attractive to live in the centre of the city in a small apartment and go out every evening. And suddenly, we realized that we are closed in small apartments in the centre of the city, which we cannot leave in a quick manner. Around the world, people started to look for places outside of the city. And I think that's also a huge opportunity for developers -  to develop sites outside of the city. They should also be much more concerned about the climate and build green buildings. I know that this is more expensive. But I think that at the end of the day, it will attract the clients and will make their developments much more competitive”, predicts Kuźma.  

Also, the residential developers operating in Poland are convinced that changes are inevitable, especially with the ‘encouragement’ from the authorities. „My own philosophy is always to prepare for something which is not popular today, even though your business may be doing very well. We should be provocative inside our organizations. Let's test some experiments as many cities have done over the last year. In the passing months, many European cities were testing, what can be done to improve living in the city, when people do not have to travel or commute. How to make it more ecological, but at the same time more comfortable. So they closed and narrowed the roads and increased the number of bike lanes. These experiments were vastly successful and changed the way how we circulate in the city. Maybe it will be easier to discuss with the authorities that we do not need such a number of parking garages inside the buildings,” said Waldemar Olbryk of Archicom.

„We have to remember that we will do projects only if they are profitable. That also means that if we are burdened as developers with doing everything that legislators and cities should do, these products will be very expensive. They are already extremely expensive for the average person. Going green may make it even more. At the end of the day, our customers will be able to afford even smaller units. The developers are mostly interested in making money. So maybe the law should force us to do something which is sustainable. And by law I also mean zoning laws, which are very, very outdated” commented Michał Melaniuk, President of the Management Board at Cordia Polska. „I think COVID-19 has just fueled the changes that were happening anyway. For me, running the developer business also includes the preparation works on the projects and definitely, COVID-19 had a very negative impact on the scope of our activities. To pre-develop the project and to start the construction takes much longer and is a much more difficult task than it used to be. So this is my main concern related to the pandemic - the much slower pace of preparing the projects.”