The Municipality of Bohinj to facilitate access to housing

Long-term neglect of the housing sector has led to a Slovenian housing crisis. In most EU Member States – including Slovenia – housing prices are rising faster than income, which makes housing ever more inaccessible and an increasing burden on households. IPoP has been following housing policy issues and responding to them for many years.

We strive to draw attention to spatial and social dimensions of housing. We were a founding member of the Working Group for Housing Policy within the national network of NGOs in the field of sustainable urban development. As a member of this group, we participated in the drafting process of the National Housing Program 2015-2025. Currently, we are collaborating in the Housing for All Network, which connects five NGOs whose common goal is to promote the systemic regulation of the housing sector in Slovenia. We are also partners in the project For Housing Cooperatives, which aims to contribute to the development of housing cooperatives and thus to affordable, sustainable, secure, and community-planned housing.

In 2020 we accepted another challenge. For the past year and a half, we have been drafting a housing strategy for the Municipality of Bohinj. The strategy has been approved by the municipal council of elected representatives on 28 October 2021 making it an official municipal strategy. With this, the Municipality of Bohinj committed to develop its housing supply and raise the quality of life in the local community. This is a great success!

Residential neighbourhood in Bohinjska Bistrica / Photo: Urban Jeriha

Strategic housing planning is important both at the national and local level

Housing problems can only be successfully and comprehensively solved when measures at the national level are complemented by local actions and experiments. Municipal housing policy outlines the course of local housing development. The implementation of housing policy can have a significant impact on the economic and demographic development of the area, but it also, as defined by the Slovenian Constitution, improves the chances of people to find suitable housing which is currently one of the most pressing social issues in Slovenia.

Bohinj is located in Slovenian Alps and is one of the fastest developing tourist destinations in Slovenia. The growing influx of tourists puts a lot of pressure on the housing stock and the local community, leaving many young families without affordable housing options, forcing them to move to neighbouring communities or the capital. The Municipality of Bohinj decided to address the problem and draft a housing strategy to support its efforts of developing a sustainable tourist destination, not just focusing on environmental protection but also considering the influence of tourism on the local community.

The housing strategy of the Municipality of Bohinj sets strategic guidelines to create conditions for a better quality of life in the municipality, to retain residents in the local community and attract new ones. The municipality committed to provide better conditions for new families, offer accessible housing for young people, and enable appropriate living conditions for the elderly. Young adults in  Bohinj will be able to find their first home easier. This will reduce the risk of emigration of promising young people and will improve the conditions for economic development in the municipality.

Public debate on housing / Photo: Aidan Cerar

It is important to involve key stakeholders and the public in the preparation of the housing strategy

Public participation was one of the main features of the drafting process.  Three surveys, two public debates, two workshops, four focus groups and several interviews were conducted. Over 400 people were involved in the process, which is quite representative for a municipality of about 5000. We found that almost a third of Bohinj residents are dissatisfied with their current housing status. Young people feel this distress the most, as they are convinced that it is almost impossible to buy an apartment or build a house in the municipality of Bohinj.

Among the key findings we highlighted:

  • The population is ageing and shrinking.
  • There is a fear of youth emigration.
  • There is a lot of old residential buildings, many empty or underused.
  • Housing has a low priority in the local environment.
  • Construction of new apartments and houses is limited due to nature and cultural heritage protection areas.
  • The prices of housing and building plots are high, there is a low number of transactions at the real estate market.
  • Residents compete with wealthy tourists from Slovenia and abroad.
  • The municipality has a limited number of apartments for rent, the rental market is small in general.
  • Uncertain rental conditions and the housing black market are common.
Srednja vas in Bohinj / Photo: Chris Russell

The Municipality of Bohinj has set several goals and a plan for achieving them

The municipality will strive to reduce emigration from the municipality, influence the rental housing market, provide housing for young families, and encourage renovation and reuse of the existing housing stock.

The measures set in the strategy consist of three sets: the establishment of a housing fund management system, the optimization and upgrading of municipal operation, and the provision of new housing stock. Different measures and actors would therefore help to acquire 55 flats by 2027, which is an ambitious goal, but also necessary given the situation.

The implementation of the strategy will start in 2022 when two measures are expected to be launched. The municipal rental service will improve the conditions of tenants and landlords. Offering incentives for the reconstruction or renovation of residential buildings underused buildings will be activated.

The example of Bohinj shows how important it is for smaller municipalities to recognize and address housing challenges to facilitate good living conditions for their citizens. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to prepare a strategy for the Municipality of Bohinj. We share our knowledge and experience but also learned a lot ourselves in the process. In the future, we wish that even more municipalities would recognize the need for strategic planning of housing provision and thus embark on the path of improving the quality of life of their citizens.

Cover photo: villages Stara Fužina, Studor and Srednja vas in Bohinj / Photo: Miriam Espacio na Pexels

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