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More than 11 percent of municipally owned houses are unoccupied in the county seats of Hungary

In connection with the housing crisis, most of the time the situation of the capital is mentioned. However, the countryside also experiences several problems and it is also common that people have to wait for a long time to be able to move into a municipally owned property. Because of all this, we decided to look at the housing stock of the 18 county seats of Hungary, only to find out that 3400 real-estates owned by the municipalities are currently vacant and unexploited.

The housing crisis affects rural cities as well

Municipally owned houses could provide a solution for the housing of those in need, especially since the current public housing programmes fail to provide help for those in need. In spite of this, we could see that the number of municapally owned real estates is particularly low in Hungary, around 2,5 percent. As a consequence, there are still far more people in need than there are municipally owned apartments available in a good condition.

One of the reasons for that is the constantly diminishing public housing stock. In the beginning of 2020, there were approximately 924 thousand dwellings per 1.75 million people in Budapest (which, in addition to municipally owned real estate, includes privately owned and other dwellings as well). The same figure in the 18 county towns is a total of 814 thousand dwellings available for approximately 1.68 million people.

According to the data provided by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH) in 2011, the proportion of municipal dwellings is nevertheless not the highest in the capital, but in Komárom-Esztergom county, where it accounts for 4.5 % of the total housing stock. In Budapest, this figure is 4.1 %, followed by Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén with 3.9% and Nógrád county, where 3.8 % of the dwellings are owned by the municipality.

Recently, we have covered the same topic regarding the capital:

Almost ten percent of municipally owned houses are unoccupied in Budapest

Housing crisis is getting more and more serious in Hungary. According to surveys, nearly 2 million people live in housing poverty but at the same time, public housing programmes fail to offer help to those in need. 9,7% of the properties owned by the municipality are currently vacant and unexploited.

In this article, we focus on the data received from the 18 municipalities of the county seats. We wanted to know how exactly the housing stock changed in the last 2,5 years, and how many dwellings are currently vacant and unexploited.

The data provided by the municipalities shows the state of housing stocks in the first half of 2020, with the exception of Szeged and Salgótarján, who could provide data from the end of 2019. However, the list is not complete, as there was one city (Győr) from which we didn’t manage to get the data we asked for so far.

There are significant differences in the municipal housing stock of each city: in case of equal distribution, in theory about 1700 properties would belong to all 18 municipalities. In reality, however, we can see that four municipalities (Miskolc, Debrecen, Szeged and Pécs) own 51%, so more than half of the real estate assets of all the 18 county seats.

The housing stock has changed significantly in Szeged due to the fact that in 2,5 year, more than 150 flats were removed from the municipal stock.

Most of the vacant dwellings are in Miskolc

Out of the 29,776 municipal properties, 3,425 are vacant, which means 11,5 percent of all municipally owned dwellings. This rate is much higher than in the capital, where, according to our data, 9.7% of flats are unused.

The number of vacant dwellings is the highest in Miskolc, where 19% of all municipally owned houses currently unexploited, but the proportion is also high in Salgótarján (42%). The smallest number of vacant properties is in Veszprém,  where only 13 flats are currently not in use. Another positive example is Tatabánya, where 98% of the flats are utilized at the moment.

Not all county seats were able to give specific figures about how many of the vacant dwellings would be in habitable condition. According to our calculations, there are roughly 627 properties, which means that 18.3% of vacant dwellings could be utilized. As a consequence, similarly to the situation in Budapest, vacant, but well-maintained real estates could provide housing for approximately 1800 people in the county seats.

The public housing stock is slowly diminishing

We also wanted to know what was the reason for the change of the public housing stock, so we asked the municipalities about the number of recently built, sold or purchased houses from 2018 to 2020.

During the last 2,5 year 603 houses were sold by the municipalities, but the data shows that most of the times they weren’t replaced by new ones (neither with newly built or with purchased real estates), which can provide an explanation for the constantly diminishing public housing stock. There was only one construction in the last 2,5 years, in Kaposvár, but the number of purchases also declined, only 82 new dwellings were purchased by the municipalities.

We also gathered information about the court-ordered evictions of the tenants living in municipal properties. Within 2,5 year altogether 594 evictions were ordered in the county seats, which is 5 times higher than in the capital.

The waitlist is exteremely long

According to a report made by Habitat for Humanity in 2018, the biggest problem with the current public housing system is connected to accessibility: there are significantly fewer homes available than it would actually be needed, and the situation hasn’t changed much since then. There are many people who have to wait for years in order to get a municipal apartment, and often these houses are in a poor condition, which means that the maintenance costs are also high.

In addition, the lack of central measures and a complex, unified approach is another urgent problem: since the local municipalities are free to determine the conditions regarding the application process for the dwellings, there can be huge differences between different cities.

According to the real estate management plan presented in August, there were more than 2,600 applications for the 57 apartments announced in 2020 in Miskolc. In Eger, there are currently 20 vacant flats, but 198 people are on the waitlist. The news portal of Baranya county has also wrote an article about the topic, stating that in 2019 around 1,500 people were waiting for a municipal property in Pécs, the county seat, where according to our data, the number of vacant flats is 417.

Possible ways to alleviate the crisis

According to a study published last year by Periféria Policy and Research Center there are four possible solutions to the current housing crisis: construction of municipal or state owned houses, the establishment of a housing maintenance company, social housing agencies, and the rental housing cooperative model.

The latter is based on collective ownership, and its biggest advantage is the utilization of the state-owned unexploited real estates.

The third mentioned concept is the establishment of social housing agencies, which aims at granting privately owned homes to socially deprived tenants. There are some Hungarian examples to this model as well: such as in Szombathely, but District I. is also planning to make an agreemnet with From Street to Homes NGO in the near future.

However, the global coronavirus pandemic has put the local municipalities into a difficult situation in rural cities as well, due to the fact the government has substracted significant amount of money from them in the name of the fight against the pandemic.

Written and translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, Hungarian version of this article can be found here.

The cover photo is an illustration. Credit: unsplash.com

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