Bratislava learns number of empty flats from electricity data

Published: 22. 11. 2023

Until recently, Bratislava officials assumed there were 51,000 empty apartments in the city held by investors. To test the theory, however, the city decided to work with power companies to find out how many apartments were using no electricity or barely any at all. It turns out, there are at most 18,000 empty units in the city, a mere one-third of what had been anticipated. That’s valuable information for a city to have at a time when rising housing prices are becoming unaffordable. In the case of Bratislava, there had been calls to implement a tax on apartments that would discourage the practice of buying, but not using them. The small number of units available (7.5% of the city’s housing stock of 240,000 units) seems to have dissuaded officials from going down that road, according to Hospodářské noviny.

If the debate sounds familiar, it’s because Prague’s former mayor Zdeněk Hřib tried to carry out the same experiment. But the idea was shot down by his political rivals who complained it would violate principles of private ownership and rights to privacy. These were effective arguments, even though they were nonsense since the data collected would be provided in an anonymous form. As a result, Prague still has no idea how many empty units it has. The only thing it has to go on is the Czech Statistical Office’s once-per-decade census, according to which there are 93,000 unused flats in the city.

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