Broadening Bratislava’s toolkit: how developer obligations are improving the city

About the Affordable Cities blog series and #BetterUrbanHousing
People living in cities across the world are facing the effects of the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis. OECD Champion Mayors recently endorsed the new “OECD Brussels Blueprint for Affordable cities and Housing for All” at the Brussels Urban Summit where they shared innovative solutions to tackle these challenges and drive more inclusive economic growth. They continue to drive efforts that shape a more affordable, equitable and resilient urban future.

Bratislava belongs to the growing number of cities with rising housing costs and worsening affordability. Moreover, Bratislava has only a limited public housing stock and few regulatory powers to mitigate what may become a crisis if the trend continues. To counter this trend, Bratislava has developed a new housing and zoning policy to accelerate development.

A new plan

Bratislava’s “City Housing Policy“ sets out a new approach. One urgent need was to update the city’s master plan, which allowed too little space for new housing, resulting in restricted supply and growing urban sprawl, which has become a major issue. As shown on the chart, affordability of housing in Bratislava has decreased significantly in the past 10 years1Although, the rents in the city have grown less sharply than wages, private rental housing is very limited in numbers, therefore less relevant to address the core issue. Housing ownership is the preferred we to solve the housing issue in Slovakia.

Households in Bratislava are able to afford less and less space

M2 of accommodation the monthly average income in Bratislava can buy

Demystifying developer obligations

To address the shortcomings of the master plan and foster sustainable housing development, we have implemented a new policy that governs the process of master plan updates. Prior to this, no specific regulations existed, leading to unbalanced, arbitrary decisions and untransparent city-developer deals. A major new tool in the box is a system of developer contributions.

In the past thirty years, the city of Bratislava has been losing its public housing stock, leaving the city with only 1% of the stock, compared to 20% in nearby Brno. Bratislava is striving to find new ways to enable new housing in areas that are in line with the public interest. The city aims to ensure that a portion of these newly built housing units is allocated to the municipal rental housing fund, or are promoted under different ownership or institutional concepts. These play a vital role in ensuring social inclusion, helping meet the needs of nurses and teachers as well as marginalised groups.

Where planning permission is granted to developers to build more flats (up-zoning), we have created a transparent concept for investing a portion of the additional profit of developers into public housing. Large redevelopment zones, such as brownfields, require essential civic amenities such as schools, kindergartens, public transportation, and parks to provide a high-quality living environment. To provide for these, the plan provides flexibility to allow developers to provide such infrastructure instead of flats for public housing. This innovative approach ensures that developers’ increased profits drive better amenities, and the more holistic development of these zones.

Better communities

Bratislava is embarking on an exciting journey to make housing more affordable for all its residents. By recognising the importance of public housing, we have implemented forward-thinking policies to leverage partnerships with and contributions from the private sector. This helps us strike a better balance between housing development and the civic amenities we need to create vibrant, inclusive communities that offer a high quality of life for all Bratislava’s inhabitants.

About the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative
Created in 2016, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a global coalition of mayors who meet on a regular basis to share their experience in the pursuit of inclusive growth in cities. Since its inception, over 100 different mayors from around the world have joined the Initiative, contributing their voice to the global debate, and making major strides in their cities toward youth empowerment, sustainable climate policy and support for SMEs. The Champion Mayors will meet at the Brussels Urban Summit on 13 June to drive change on improving housing affordability and cost of living for residents in their cities.

Mayor of Bratislava | + posts

Matúš Vallo has been the Mayor of Bratislava since December 2018, when he won the municipal elections with 36,5% of the vote. Before he was elected mayor, he was a co-founder of the Vallo Sadovsky Architects studio.

Matúš was born in Bratislava and then went to high school in Rome. He then graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava. During his career as an architect, Matúš has worked in London and other cities. He received a Fulbright scholarship from Columbia University in New York.

As mayor, one of the main goals for Matúš and his team has been to create a strong and resilient city with a high level of transparency as a key to fighting corruption.

Building on his professional experience, Matúš has placed an emphasis on well-designed public spaces. Other key topics are mitigation and adaptation to climate change, accessible public transport, social welfare and support for vulnerable groups.