City trying to change building law

Experts and the city would like to see a simpler, transparent process for getting permits

A working group to create a new building law has been set up at Prague City Hall, according to Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO), who was speaking at a real estate related conference.

Experts agree with city officials that the current system of land-use planning and construction permitting needs to be overhauled.

Krnáčová says the lengthy building permit process is one of the main reasons why available apartments are currently lacking in Prague. The short supply leads to sharp increases in housing prices. Prague wants to develop its own legal solution to the problem.

Last September, the government approved the basic concept of its own new building law, which is being prepared by the Ministry for Regional Development. The objective is also to simplify the rules the builder must satisfy before obtaining a building permit.

The last amendment to the Building Act took effect in January. Ondřej Boháč, director of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR), said the update increased the bureaucracy, rather than ease it.

Pavel Hnilicka, first deputy chairman of the Czech Chamber of Architects (ČKA), said the state should only be concerned with what is in the public interest. This includes the height and volume of the planned building, and the noise and emissions produced. 

Currently, the builder has to get dozens of positive assessments from various institutions and building authorities.

Experts called for Prague to have only one building office or at least a common methodology for the existing ones. The current system has 22 building authorities involved in issuing permits.

This was not always the case. Up until 2003, there was a simpler system with a single office in Prague, but then the more complicated existing system was introduced.

Experts also complain there is no common method applied to make decisions. Ideally, a builder should get the same opinion from any Prague office.

IPR's Boháč said it would be ideal if Prague had two offices in the future. One would decide on permits and the other would handle any appeals.

The problem with bureaucracy in the construction in the Czech Republic is well-known, The country ranked 127th out of 190 countries for the ease of getting a building permit, according to the annual Doing Business 2018 report published by the World Bank (WB) in November 2017. In Europe, only Romania, Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina ranked lower. In addition to its length of time, other criteria, such as transparency or complexity, were assessed.

In length of getting building permits, the Czech Republic is at 165th place with 247 days. In Denmark, it takes 64 days. The Czech Republic also has 21 procedures for getting a permit, according to WB report.

The rankings only reflect the length of the procedures provided under the law. The actual process of obtaining the necessary permits takes much longer. In the Czech Republic building a typical apartment house takes about 10 years, according to real estate experts.

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