After several years of preparations, the collective Sdílené domy (Shared Houses) bought its first housing project in Prague, Czech Republic. As the name of the project První vlaštovka (First Swallow) says, they hope it will be the first piece of a broader network of housing projects in the Czech Republic, similar to Mietshäuser Syndikat in Germany or HabiTAT in Austria. Furthermore, they hope to set a working example that could help not just other projects in the Czech Republic but also other countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe through the MOBA Housing network.
Here Sdílené domy report on the last months of their endeavour.
Six months of struggle with bureaucracy
At the beginning of the last year, we overcame our last big obstacle before searching for a concrete house – finding the main source of financing. After more than a year of unsuccessfully convincing one of the local banks to give us a loan to purchase the first house, we managed to negotiate and obtain financing from a German foundation Stiftung Umverteilen. At that point, we understood the Prague property market situation had significantly changed, with many people, due to the Covid-19, investing money with the expectation of a supposedly coming economic crisis. Therefore, in 2021, we only found a few properties in Prague that would suit our needs and the rapidly rising prices. Ultimately, in October, we decided to purchase a former hotel in Prague 6 district, where we could all fit and still have a space left to create an open political space for discussions, lectures, concerts, and other social and political activities.
Then, the process continued for the next several months with signing the purchase contract just before Christmas. Since we had to deal with an international bureaucracy connected with financing a property in the Czech Republic by a foreign financial institution, the final handover of the house could not take place until the 22nd of March 2022.
Since we have the house…
When we finally got the keys, an even more giant pile of bureaucracy appeared before us with all the energy, insurance, and other contracts to be signed. But there were also more pleasant things to come. When trying to find out more about the house we just bought, we came across old photos but also a piece of surprising information – the former hotel served for a period as a shelter for German anti-fascists fleeing Nazi Germany (more info here). With the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we decided to continue this tradition by offering our house as a shelter to people fleeing the war.
After overtaking the house, we slowly started the reconstruction. We used the first few weekends to clear out the garbage and other unusable stuff from the cellars and make more minor repairs to the currently unused rooms and flats.
Before we move in
Our next most significant challenge is reconstructing the house to a shape that would suit the needs of current cooperative members. At this point, we understood how important it is to work with architects, like our friends from Second Nature, that understand the logic and the basic mechanisms of the collective housing models. Apart from individual flats housing 15-18 people, we plan to have a semi-public shared “living room” with a guest room, several offices for NGOs and an open political space in the basement. The whole reconstruction will require further funds. Therefore, we are more than happy to get financial support through the MOBA Housing Fund – as the first project within the MOBA network. Furthermore, we are planning campaigns for direct loans and other forms of financial support in the Czech Republic and Germany.