Jan Hampel, Director of the housing cooperative Stavbař
“The state wanted to dissolve all coops, although over 95% of them, if not more, worked perfectly fine.”
Jan Hampel is the head of the housing cooperative Stavbař, which currently manages 616 flats in fifty buildings, including the flats in the three U Opavice apartment blocks. He worked at Ostroj all his life, and it was through Ostroj that in 1965 he was assigned a coop flat in an apartment building at Náměstí Republiky. Mr. Hampel was born in Opava during WWII and he remembers well the heavily damaged post-war Opava with many empty spaces after destroyed houses. The cooperative housing was a necessity, as young people had no place to live. In the interview he remembers the work brigades that most coop tenants took part in, and he talks about the so-called stabilization loans, which in the 1960s and 1970s state companies like Ostroj were granting to their young employees. Mr. Hampel disapproves of the post-1989 state’s attempts to dissolve cooperative housing associations, as coops in his experience largely functioned well. People were able to meet, discuss issues and reach consensus, and they all worked together. Today, housing coops face many difficulties. State policy and law promotes privatization over cooperative forms of living, leading to a decreasing number of flats available in the coop model. Many tenants today purchase their apartments, and people seem less interested in participation and attending meetings.