The city has been underestimating the number of people in Prague, and this has a big impact on future urban planning.
While the Czech Statistical Office puts the figure at 1.3 million, the real figure of people in the city on a daily basis is almost half a million people higher.
An economic study focusing on housing for the metropolitan area of Prague and the Central Bohemian Region shows that Prague must already count on needing apartments for at least 1.55 million inhabitants. Previous forecasts had been lower, calling for approximately 1.4 million inhabitants in 2030.
A new analysis uses anonymized demographic and location data from mobile operators, based on people’s movements in February, October and December 2018.
It showed that almost 300,000 to 400,000 people arrive in Prague everyday, leaving again in the evening. This group commutes to Prague for work, study, meetings, medical appointments, etc. If tourists using flats are added, the data shows 1.75 million people in Prague on a weekday afternoon.
According to the analysis, there are around 1.55 million people who can be considered residents. Of these, around 200,000 are those who live in Prague for a long time, but stayed outside Prague for the monitored days, for example on a domestic or foreign business trip. On the other hand, 200,000 to 250,000 people live in Prague but do not have a permanent residence there, while the registered population is 1.3 million.
Since mid-2015, new apartment prices have risen by about 90 percent, creating an unsustainable situation where housing is inaccessible to most Prague citizens. Housing experts at a recent meeting at Center of Architecture and Urban Planning (CAMP) on housing issues agreed that Prague is not unique with its housing crisis. However, the answer to meeting the needs of the population is not to expand the city beyond its borders, but to create conditions for a quality living in the city, experts agreed.
“Cities are no longer centers of industry, but mainly of trade and services, and in all respects they improve living conditions. Current figures show that demand for living in Prague is even greater than we perceived, and in the future we need to be able to work with such information on a continuous basis,” Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague), responsible for territorial development, said.
“The city must count on the rapid and efficient large-scale transformation of areas that have been disused for many years. This is the only way to reduce pressure on infrastructure and at least to stabilize the numbers of those who commute every day,” he added.
Ondřej Špaček, speaking on behalf of data analyst CE-Traffic, said the city now had the opportunity to evaluate this data to get a more accurate picture of the actual population. “Without such data, no city can proceed. The number of people moving across the borders of Prague every day can be called extreme, but no circumstances suggest that this trend should decrease,” Špaček said.
“In addition, given the price of housing in Prague, it is unlikely that the trend of tens of thousands of people traveling to Prague for work and services concentrated in the metropolis every day will be mitigated in the coming years,” he added.
As a result of many people working in Prague, but living outside the capital, the construction and support of housing in neighboring regions has increased.
“The decline in construction in Prague is being replaced by the regional housing market, which has a number of negative consequences, especially the increase in need for transport,” architect Lukáš Kohl from the firm Doma je Doma said.
As a result of this process, real estate prices have increased significantly in the districts of Prague-East and Prague-West. The average price of a family house has increased by millions, and rental prices in the entire catchment area have increased by dozens of percent, especially in areas with good transport links with Prague.
Among other factors that influence construction, experts cited slow building permits, rising land prices, high tax burdens, and, in particular, a rise in construction work prices coupled with labor shortages, affecting the economic balance of projects.
“In some cases, there is a serious risk that inputs will be so expensive that the project will not be feasible … even if it has all the permits,” real estate expert Eduard Forejt said.