Land conversion for suburban housing: A study of urbanization around Warsaw and Olsztyn, Poland

Environ Manage. 2004 Aug;34(2):291-303. doi: 10.1007/s00267-003-3010-x.


In Poland of the 1990s, urban demand for housing land around city agglomerations increased rapidly. The decreasing profitability of agricultural production also caused farmers to become interested in the sale of agricultural land for nonagricultural purposes, and new land legislation granted them the right to sell their land. Polish counties simultaneously received self-governing status, which allowed them to define the priorities for local development. Counties received additional responsibility for land management and quickly demonstrated strong support for land conversion, which was perceived as a factor of local development. This paper argues that decentralization and the extension of private control over land have led to a loss of rural landscapes in Poland because farmers, county governments, and rural society in general gained from the conversion of agricultural to housing land. Rapid urbanization has significantly reduced the availability of open space around cities and threatened valuable landscapes, for it has occurred in the absence of environmental safeguards. This paper reports findings from research in two counties, located in regions with diverse economic growth rates. Decentralization is particularly problematic if tax regulations and intergovernmental fiscal relations reward local authorities for urbanization but not environmental protection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Cities
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environment Design*
  • Environment*
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Poland
  • Social Conditions