Blocks of flats in urgent need of repair, claim residents and builders

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Forty percent of all people in the Czech Republic live in prefabricated blocks of flats, most of which were built in the 1960s and early 70s as a cheap solution to the housing shortage, Peter Smith reports.

The passage of time is taking its toll on these so-called 'panalaks', though, with residence associations and building contractors claiming that many are in urgent need of repair. According to Josef Pavlousek of the building contractors group, IKAS, although the need is acknowledged, it is simply a question a finance:

"The situation in the reconstruction of blocks of flats is very bad. Nearly one third of flats in our country are these types of flats. These flats urgently need reconstruction. They are old - 30 or 40 years - and the situation in these times is totally another. Quality hasn't been first place. Inhabitants of these flats are not able to pay these great sums of money for reconstruction.

There is little cause for immediate alarm since the buildings are not dangerous - it is only a case of upgrading to meet modern European standards. Josef Pavlousek again.

"Our companies are prepared and are able to repair these flats very good for the European standard, but there is no money for that. These old buildings are very bad because they have great losses of thermal energy - we need to reconstruct these flats - new bathrooms, new lavatories, and new windows because windows are thirty or forty years old and the insulation is not good."

The financial question, though, is complicated by ownership of the panalaks - some are state-owned, some run by a cooperative and others are private buildings. Josef Pavlousek believes that, irrespective of ownership - the government should not shirk its responsibility.

"Government must give some money for the starting of this project. Yes, of course, some money must come from banks and private investors and so on, but we need to start this process. One million or more of these flats, to reconstruct them, and the starting process - government or the state must give it. That is no so great money for starting this process. Some flats may be now dangerous, but it is not globally - but maybe after ten years it will be."