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Housing and the Roma in Hungary. Tibor Beres Autonomia Foundation, Hungary. The Context. Total population of Hungary is less than 10 million. Based on estimates, Roma make up 5 to 10 % (percent) of the total population. The Roma in Hungary live geographically concentrated

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housing and the roma in hungary

Housing and the Roma in Hungary

Tibor Beres

Autonomia Foundation, Hungary

the context

The Context

Total population of Hungary is less than 10 million.

Based on estimates, Roma make up 5 to 10 % (percent) of the total population.

The Roma in Hungary live geographically concentrated

Ghetto villages (Northern, Eastern and Southern part of the country)



Around 3% of the total population live in segregated places but 30% of the Roma live that way.

10-12% of the dwellings are substandard

the context ii

The Context, II

  • The Roma in Hungary live geographically concentrated
    • Ghetto villages (Northern, Eastern and Southern regions of the country);
    • Situation of segregated settlements in small and remote villages is worse because of the lack of public services (or poor quality of them);
    • Not only the physical segregation but the poor quality of the housing stock is a problem and its reason, as well.
the context iii

The Context, III

  • Debt trap: Based on estimates, one fifth of the Hungarian households have overdue utility bills invoices (water, electricity etc.). More than 20% of the households pays more than 30% of their income for public services related to the household income (before the financial crisis).
  • The ratio of social housing decreased from 22 to 4% since the beginning of 90’s.
  • Previous (social) housing programs caused ‘market failures’ or financial abuses.
  • Value of the properties is symbolic. It causes that habitants are inmobile and they cannot be financed by the formal bank sector.
the context iv

Complexity of the problem:

    • Lack of access to labour;
    • low or unfinished education;
    • bad health conditions;
    • severe living conditions
    • exclusion from decision making;
    • no community cohesion.
  • Paradox situation:
  • The more vulnerable the household is, the less energy efficient is the house. That is the poor families have to spend more money on for the wood (or pay a fine when stealing wood) and they cannot afford installing the insulation.
  • Children living in segregated settlements are excluded from the ‘normal’ elementary school or they can’t access the same quality of education that higher class children enjoy. This increases/preserves the gap between Roma and non-Roma children.
  • Funding/ Application (?) system is contradictory because the more underdeveloped a settlement is, the less likely that it will apply for EU-funds to liquidate its segregated settlements.

The Context, IV

the context iv1

The Context, IV

Governmental Programs

People living in deep poverty (the Roma) cannot benefit from governmental programs (pre-savings based fund, debt-consolidation program for governmental employees) because those are targeted to the middle or upper-middle class.

Roma Settlement Rehabilitation Program could reach only 31 settlements. There is no model-program, best practice and experience neither on the governmental nor at the Beneficiary side.

Administrative and financial burden of the calls hinders the participation of small and underdeveloped settlements.

There is no real complexity in the programs (i.e the most recent program does not contain infrastructural pillar - it will maintain the segregated situation.



Governmental Programs

using financial instruments such as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development;

making greater use of technical assistance,

increasing the implementaton period of the projects,

ensuring that the various EU funds available can be applied in a more integrated andflexible manner in the future,

evaluation the results,

using global grants

(Review of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies by OSI)

using ‘applicant-friendly’ procedures, taking into account the differences between the applicants’ capacity and motivation,

ensuring real complexity by involving the target group in the planning

motivating the municipalities to prepare feasible and efficient local programs to eliminate the segregated neighbourhoods (real integration)

considering NGOs as eligible applicants - in case of resistance of the municipalities

solutions ii

Solutions? II

Alternative and pilot programs

- It must not be a competition. Pilots, alternatives should complement the governmental measures and looking for new and innovative approaches.

-Asset building based approach

Focusing on the ‘missing parts’ of the governmental programs or running parallel and financially independent local programs. (Avoiding the cross-finance.)

Energy efficiency (improving the energy efficiency of the houses AND assisting the households to use alternative energy - e.g. biomass briquettes)

Community based actions (community development, community based planning, exploring the local resources)

an example

An Example

Autonomia’s Asset Building Program

Various methods to testedto provide a flexible ‘menu’ for different communities:


Bank of Chance


The overall aim was to manage the complex problem with financial (asset building) measures:

Savings instead of loans

Loans provided in a sustainable, fair and simple way

Financial development and education in an indirect way

Consolidating household budgets (or preventing further debts)

Finding and testing new and adaptable models to complete the state run programs


CAF Method

Groups build savings to have their own loan capital. It is an ‘open source’ self-banking model.

Method can be efficient against illegal money-lending/usury, in case of financial emergency situations and for community development.

Asset building effect is significant. Participants can save for housing aim, as well.


Results I

  • The effect of the financial crisis was serious (very high drop out rate compared to the previous programs)
  • Methods work but the saving capacity is very limited (10-12 Euros monthly)
  • Regarding the state of the houses, renovation, energy efficiency and conservation (drainage system, roof-repairing, eliminating wetness of the walls) can be feasible
  • Complexity of the housing program (it was not ‘housing’…) was efficient (energy-efficiency, technical advisory, mentoring, financial education, community development).
  • CAF and Bank of Chance model can (could) be financially self-sustainable after a launching period.

Results II

  • Asset building theory can be useful to
    • involve and motivate the target group into a big scale Settlement Alleviation (anti-segregation) Program;
    • motivate them to do savings;
    • consider their homes and environment as a value and invest in them;
    • develop the communities.
  • There are many opportunities to complete these programs:
    • voluntary work
    • donations (materials)
    • media and awareness raising against the stereotypes.

‘Bank of Chance’

Community Based Financial Education Program

Innovative elements of the program


Pre-savings (as a condition and collateral of loans)

FinEdu curriculum developed for the aim of the program


Evaluation (using control groups)


The IDA-Housing structure

Application by local counsellors. Technical assessment, selection committee.

Participants open a saving account in the local savings cooperative. Saving period starts

(Mikrohitel P.L.C provides a loan for participants if the scoring was successful. Maximum loan amount is double of the saved plus matching.)

In the end of savings period, saved amount is matched with a fund on a one to one ratio.

Beneficiaries implement the constructions with the coordination of Habitat for H., and under the financial control of Autonomia. They have to use the total amount in a legal way (paying tax).

Loans are paid back to Mikrohitel. The monthly amount is the same size than as the saving amount was.

Donors:Soros Economic Development Fund,

Le vi Strauss Foundation


Autonomia Foundation’s programs were funded by Levi Strauss Foundation and Soros Foundation (Open Society Institute)

Thank you for your attention!

Tibor Beres