Ondřej Boháč
Prague's challenges. An interview with President Petr Pavel.

What's bothering Prague? How can the state help make housing more affordable? Does Prague deal with different issues to those faced by smaller cities in the regions? Why is it important for Prague Castle to be open to the public? These were some of the many topics IPR Prague Director Ondřej Boháč discussed with President Petr Pavel.

Which of Prague’s problems do you perceive as the most pressing after your visit to CAMP?

I have long perceived the traffic situation in the capital as very problematic. The quality of education in Prague is at a very high level, and Prague is also a destination for people who commute here for work from the Central Bohemia Region and elsewhere. This puts pressure not only on school capacity but also on the transport infrastructure. Poor accessibility and a lack of access to housing are also a huge problem.

How can the state help make housing in the Czech Republic and Prague more affordable?

Above all, the construction procedure needs to be simplified, free of unnecessary formalities and bureaucracy. I also think it would be helpful if local governments supported rental housing.

The President of the Czech Republic was welcomed by the Director of IPR Prague. "I very much appreciate that the President decided to visit us and we had the opportunity to present our work to him. I firmly believe that this is not our last working meeting. We focused primarily on the topic of housing affordability, which needs to be actively addressed not only at the city level, but also at the state level. Prague is already short of thousands of apartments, and yet another 10 to 15 thousand new residents move here every year, so the deficit grows exponentially," says Ondřej Boháč.

Author: Jan Malý , Source: IPR Praha

You visit the regions a lot. Do you notice differences in problems between other big cities in the Czech Republic and Prague?

Since my election, I have visited more than half of the regions and I intend to continue my trips around the country. There are identical problems that plague citizens from Aš to Ostrava, but also specific regional problems that people face in different parts of the country, which are mainly related to transport accessibility and the socio-economic situation. I definitely see differences between big cities and rural areas.

You currently live and have an office in Prague. But you used to commute from the Central Bohemia Region. Where roughly did you perceive the border between this region and the capital?

I live and work in Prague, but I also try to travel outside the office and outside the city borders for work. Until recently I commuted from the Ústí region, so the difference between going from a small village in the Ústí region through the Central Bohemia region to entering Prague was visually significant. The proximity to Prague is always unmistakably demonstrated by the traffic congestion.

Three-quarters of the Czech population live in cities, and this number will continue to grow. The urban environment is, therefore, a serious societal issue in terms of development, sustainability, climate and security. Who do you consult on these issues?

I have my own team of advisors. I can't say that I've talked about this with only some of them – what you're asking about is actually an entanglement of problems. That's why I talk to practically everyone about it, otherwise we'd miss the big picture. We can't simply extract city life as a sub-topic. Moreover, Prague as a metropolis is even more complex. That's why I wanted to talk to the local government representatives.

The meeting was also attended by the Councilor for Development Petr Hlaváček, Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, Councilor for Social Affairs and Housing Alexandra Udženija, Councilor for Property Adam Zábranský and Director of the Prague Development Company Petr Urbánek.

Author: Jan Malý , Source: IPR Praha

Most of the people who live in Prague today were born outside of Prague. Paradoxically, we often hear of a division into "Praguers" and the rest of the country. How do you perceive this distinction?

Personally, I don't see the division into "Praguers" and the rest of the country. But this is probably due to the fact that I was not born in Prague and have lived in various places in the country and abroad since childhood, which gives you a slightly different perspective.

Do you have a favorite place in Prague?

I love walking along the Vltava River, where the view of Prague never gets old, and I am proud that we have one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. On the other hand, I also like places that are not too crowded and are empty even though they are in the relative center of the city, like Nový Svět. It is only a few minutes away from Prague Castle, and yet, at times, you feel like you are alone in a small town.

The roadblocks have now disappeared from Prague Castle. Are you planning further steps in opening this place to the public?

We are gradually opening the castle in accordance with security requirements. Inspections are now only random. For me it is important that the castle should not be an impregnable fortress, but that it should become a natural part of Prague again – if only because you can walk through it when you go from Pohořelec to Klárov. On the other hand, it must be perceived that the castle is the number one historical and cultural monument and, as such, it must be protected.

What was the last type of public transport you used? As an avid motorcyclist, do you also have a city scooter?

The last time I was on a tram from the city center heading to a debate with citizens in Prague or Liberec. However, if the situation and distance allow it, I prefer to move on foot. I don't have a scooter. Precisely because I'm a biker. But I don't deny at all that it's the most practical way to get around quickly in crowded cities.

The visit ended with a joint photograph with the employees of IPR Prague, which celebrated ten years since its foundation this year.

Author: Jan Malý , Source: IPR Praha


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