Barrier-free flats still rare

NIK about providing flats to persons with disabilities

Municipalities are trying to acquire new flats for persons with disabilities, mainly through modernisation. The waiting list does not shrink, though. The record-breaker waited nearly 18 years. The criteria for selecting persons to be allocated a council flat were not always clear, as were the critical conditions to be met by those flats.

In compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006, ratified by Poland in 2012, states are obliged – upon applying relevant legislative, administrative and any other measures - to guarantee adequate living conditions and social protection as well as the right to live independently to persons with disabilities.

It is a responsibility of municipalities to cater to housing needs of the local government community. In line with the Act on the Protection of Tenants' Rights, Municipal Housing Stock and Amendments to the Civil Code, municipalities are obliged to specify which conditions should be met by a flat designed for persons with disabilities. The new laws were supposed to help solve the issue of the lack of support for disabled persons in the housing area.

  • cities still do not have enough flats for persons with disabilities, although their housing stocks are growing;
  • cities implemented acts essential for the procedure of allocating council flats to persons with disabilities, however not always the documents precisely defined the criteria for persons applying for a flat or specific conditions to be met by those flats;
  • when applicants rejected the offered flat as not adapted to their needs, in some municipalities those persons were removed from the waiting list, which was non-compliant with the Act on Council Housing Stock.

Not in all cases the audited cities properly performed tasks related to specifying principles and satisfying housing needs of persons with disabilities.

The cities passed long-term programmes on housing stock management. Two cities lacked such programmes for some time and in three others the documents did not fully comply with statutory requirements.

The cities also adopted documents called The principles of renting flats. However, in eight cases (42%) irregularities were found, e.g. they stated, against statutory requirements, that the refusal to accept a flat is considered as resignation from applying for a flat and results in removing an applicant from the waiting list.

Two cities failed to specify conditions to be met by flats designed for persons with disabilities. In other cities the conditions were defined in a very differentiated way, in nearly 65% they were too general and focused mainly on persons with physical disabilities.

The cities were trying to make their housing stocks more accessible for persons with disabilities, mainly by modernising them.

Depending on individual financial capacity, the cities also implemented new housing investments. As a consequence, new residential buildings free of architectonic barriers and flats suitable for disabled persons were erected.

In the audited period, the housing stock of the audited cities shrank (by about 5.6% in total) – mainly because flats were sold to their tenants and buildings in poor condition were excluded from use. At the same time, the council housing stock designed for persons with disabilities went up by over 54%. That was possible primarily thanks to new housing investments, modernisation of the stock, also by way of property purchases. Those measures were subsidised from the non-returnable Subsidy Fund, in one case a loan was contracted from the Accessibility Fund and in another a subsidy from the state budget was used.

Number of flats in total, adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities and with improved access
Graphic description

Number of flats in total, adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities and with improved access

1 January 2019

30 June 2022

Number of flats in total

97759 92259

Number of flats with improved access

565 737

including flats adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities

251 387

Source: NIK’s analysis

In 2019-2022, the housing stock of the audited municipalities went up by 136 flats designed for persons with disabilities. Flats adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities were isolated from the housing stock in 14 cities (of 19 audited ones). Nearly all cities had flats in buildings free of architectural barriers at their disposal. Besides, the cities acquired flats adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, e.g. by renting them from the Social Construction Association or housing cooperatives.

However, the cities did not fully satisfy housing needs of that group of inhabitants. Both the waiting queue and the waiting times were very long (the longest waiting time was 17 years). As of 30 June 2022, there were still 893 individuals/ households waiting for flats. The reason was that the council housing stock was scarce because the municipalities could not afford to finance new investments and adapt their existing housing stock (most often worn out) to the needs of persons with disabilities.

As a rule, new residential buildings were fully adapted to the needs of disabled persons and complied with all standards in this respect. As for older buildings, sometimes over 100 years old, the cities were trying to adapt them to the needs of persons with disabilities, physical ones in particular (installing lifts, hardening entrances, widening doors, etc).

In most cities the process of allocating flats, apart from sporadic cases, was carried out in line with the Principles of renting flats. In one local government the conditions of allocating flats were too general and discretionary, and thus non-transparent. In six local governments the procedure of verifying applications was conducted improperly. In one local government NIK identified the use of non-transparent score classification.

In 2019-2022, the audited local governments allocated 991 flats to persons with disabilities/ household with disabled persons, which made up 1.1% of the municipalities’ housing stock.

Tenancy agreements were signed with disabled persons for an indefinite period and for a definite period in case of agreements to rent a social flat. Two local governments failed to monitor termination dates of fixed-term agreements. As a consequence, some flats were occupied by persons without legal title to the flat.

The majority of the audited cities maintained the housing stock for disabled persons in good condition. However, in single cases obligatory inspections of the building condition were not carried out or follow-up recommendations were not implemented. In one case it affected the health or life safety, of which the municipality head was informed and the threat was eliminated.

In nine cities the audit revealed irregularities in running log books of the audited buildings inhabited by persons with disabilities. The irregularities were chiefly related to the failure to input some data. In eight cities energy certificates for those buildings were not developed.


Presidents, mayors, municipality heads

Intensifying measures to expand housing stock available for persons with disabilities.

Article informations

Date of creation:
06 April 2023 16:08
Date of publication:
06 April 2023 16:08
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
11 April 2023 08:11
Last modified by:
Andrzej Gaładyk
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