By Zuzanna Szymanska
BERLIN (Reuters) – Ukrainian refugees fleeing war have been hospitably received around Europe, but the longer they stay the more their presence may exacerbate housing price pressures in host nations like Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
More than half the 4.5 million who have left since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion have gone to neighbouring Poland, which was already home to the region’s biggest Ukrainian diaspora.
Marcin Janczuk, from local real estate firm Metrohouse Franchise, said Poland’s commercial housing market would have to immediately grow by half a million flats to satisfy the needs of refugees who have arrived so far.
“We estimate that in (Poland’s) largest cities, rental prices are currently about 20% higher than at the beginning of the year,” Janczuk said, adding that the refugee influx was just one of many reasons for the growth.
European nations are mostly backing Kyiv against Moscow and have shown solidarity with the refugees, finding them free or cheap accommodation in private homes and emergency lodgings, and promising help with jobs and schools. Most are women, children and the elderly as men below 60 stay to fight.
“I experience some nightly waves of gratitude for the fact that I’ve got to know Peter and Yulia,” said refugee Yulia Sarycheva, who found shelter at a family’s apartment in Prague.
Yet as the war drags on, it is unclear when the refugees might return or what shape their homes will be in when that is possible, so the need for longer-term housing plans is growing.
MEMORIES OF 2015
Sebastian Wunsch, from housing research institute GEWOS, said demand in Germany may grow by some 200,000-400,000 apartments due to the Ukrainian refugee influx, most in already over-populated cities.
After Germany received 1 million refugees during the 2015 refugee crisis, new rents grew a slightly faster 3.5% in 2015-2018 compared to 2.5% in 2011-2014, he said.
The number of refugees Germany took in was about one eightieth of the population, but Poland has already crossed the 1/15 threshold, as Europe debates the fairest way to distribute the influx of Ukrainians.
The Czech government estimates more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered the nation of 10.7 million people.
Real estate agents there report soaring rental demand.
“The growth is several-fold,” said Artem Egorov Pozo-Sandoval at the Chirs agency.
Though adding to existing pressures on house prices and rentals, data shows refugees ultimately benefit host countries’ economies as they plug workforce shortages, start businesses and contribute to tax revenue.
(Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska; Additional reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague and Luiza Ilie in Bucharest; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)