Introducing social rental agencies

In Hungary, as in many post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the availability of public rental apartment is limited, less than 3% of the total housing stock. Experts claim the social rental stock should double to meet the current need.

The demand for public housing is increasing due to the lingering effect of the economic crisis. The number of debtors defaulting on their mortgages continues to grow. Yet, the social rental stock in Hungary is not only diminishing but also facing problems like poor quality, segregated settings and management shortages. At the same time, local governments, mandated to operate most of the public housing, show little interest in making such tenements sustainable.

Economic crisis increased the demand for public housing

Economic crisis increased the demand for public housing

What is a social rental agency?

Social Rental Agencies (SRAs) can become an instrument for developing a vibrant and effective social rental sector in Hungary. These agencies perform three key tasks: renting housing units from a private rental market to needy people on special terms and guarantees, taking care of the management of the dwellings and, finally, providing social work to prevent indebtedness. SRAs can operate in the framework of a newly established legal environment by local governments or by registered NGOs that are controlled by the central authorities.

Such SRAs currently operate in Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland. Over the past few years, some elements of SRAs have been at work in Hungary, including a national rent allowance program (currently closed), local rent allowance arrangements, efforts of local family care centers to negotiate affordable rents for the clients and programs to house former homeless in private flats, supplemented by social work and a complementary housing allowance.

SRAs in Hungary

Habitat for Humanity Hungary, together with the Budapest-based Metropolitan Research Institute, is trying to implement this Social Rental Agency scheme in Hungary. Local experience with social rentals and the potential introduction of SRAs was the central topic of Habitat Hungary’s 15th Anniversary conference in November 2011.

Between September 2012 and November 2013, Habitat Hungary and the Metropolitan Research Institute are conducting research and advocacy work, supported by the Open Society Institute, to help include the SRA concept into the set of official housing policy instruments. The organizations will analyze existing SRA practices and develop feasibility studies in cooperation with four municipalities.

Lea Kőszeghy
advocacy officer
Habitat for Humanity Hungary