Prague 6 promises cheap apartments in a lottery

In many parts of Western Europe, local authorities have privatized public sector housing over the past few years. Now the Czech Republic is following suit, and many local authorities are offering their tenants the chance to buy their flats. Given the legacy of communism, this is a complicated process, and not everyone is benefiting from the changes. One Prague district has chosen an unusual way of dealing with the problem - with its very own lottery.

Cheerleaders, music and a crowd of about 300 people. And the reason? The town hall of Prague 6, which covers a large area of the west of the city, is announcing the winners of an extraordinary lottery. They will get the chance to win one of fifteen apartments - or to be more accurate, to buy it at a rock-bottom price.

The whole idea of a lottery arose as the municipality of Prague 6 decided to keep about 3 000 apartments, mostly for social housing, and offer the rest for reduced prices to the current tenants. To give a chance to those who are not lucky enough to live in a public-owned apartment, the municipality decided to offer fifteen apartments in a lottery. Tomas Chalupa, the mayor of Prague 6:

"It is often the case, that you have two people who have been living in almost identical apartments in the same street for the same period of time. But one apartment block fell into private ownership after the fall of communism, because it was returned to its pre-communist owner, leaving the tenants with no chance of buying their flats. The block next door has remained in local council hands, meaning that the tenants had the chance to buy their apartments from the council at very cheap rates. There was nothing we could do about this injustice, so we decided to give at least some of the "unlucky" ones a chance to buy an apartment under the same circumstances as council tenants. "

A staggering 25 000 applicants tried their luck, which caused more than a few headaches at the Prague 6 town hall. Each application had to be accompanied by stacks of paperwork. Some people had to wait in line in the office for several hours. Tomas Chalupa admits this nuisance, but as he says, it was inevitable.

"We did not expect that many applications. But we had to set strict rules, because of abuse in the past, when we've been allocating council flats. This time, if we catch anyone cheating, it will be an offence against the law."

Of course, some of the applicants are not driven by need, and are more interested in selling the apartments on for a profit. But most of the people I talked to at the meeting, many young couples among them, welcome this lottery as a chance to finally get their own apartment which they cannot afford at current prices.

To cheer up those, who did not win, another lottery for ten more apartments will take place within few weeks.