Centre of Prague depopulating

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Those of you who have visited Prague know that during the day, the city centre swarms with people, both tourists and locals. But come evening many windows on the upper floors fall into darkness. That's because so many apartments in the historic centre have been turned into offices in the last decade or two. The central parts of Prague have been facing serious depopulation, a trend which does not seem to be about to change.

Ilustrační foto: archiv Radia Praha
Real estate agencies in Prague report a record demand for office space this year. With the rents several times higher than in the case of apartments, often subject to rent control, it is no wonder that so many owners of apartment blocks in central Prague had the flats refurbished as offices in the 1990s. Many people were then forced to move out. But statistics show that the population decrease continues. Eva Vojtova from the Czech Statistical Office:

"We can see the biggest population growth in those districts where housing construction is going on. From 2001-2005 the biggest number of flats were built in the outer districts of Prague, namely Prague 8, 5 and 10. Those were thousands of flats. The population is decreasing in the centre, with last year seeing the largest loss when almost 600 people moved out of the historic centre. There is little space for new housing development, even though 230 flats were built in the centre in 2001 to 2005."

Since the fall of communism, the centre of Prague has witnessed a boom of business and tourism. Grocery shops have made way for expensive restaurants, souvenir shops and exchange offices. Families with young children in particular are finding it difficult to live in the centre of Prague and that's why many have opted for quieter and safer locations with better conditions for raising children. This has resulted in changes to the age structure in different parts of Prague. Eva Vojtova again:

"The central parts are traditionally older. The youngest population can be found in the housing estates in the outer districts. In Prague 13, the average age is under 36 years. On the other hand, in Prague 10, the oldest district demographically, it is almost 45. Last year, the largest percentage of children - more than 20 percent - was in Nebusice, which is a new residential area. In Prague 9 there were only 10 percent of children."

Demographers agree that it is mainly young, single and career minded people who find living in the centre of Prague desirable these days. The local authorities are aware of the trend but say it is a long term and complex task to reverse it.