Half of the dwellings bought to house the residents of the Hős Street slum are empty

Two months ago, on 29 June, the deadline for the 2,1 billion HUF (approxiamately 5,8 million €) non-refundable government aid that the municipality of Kőbánya received for the demolition of the “Hős Street slum”, a deteriorated appartment house expired. The rehabilitation of the infamous blocks, which are currently know as one of the few remaining slum-like neighbourhoods in Budapest has been going on for more than 2 years, and it seems like it has not yet been completed, as there are still a number of residents are currently living there. In addition, we discovered that more than half of the municipal properties acquired for a total of more than 1 billion HUF are still vacant, i.e. have not yet been transferred to the residents of Hős Street 15/A-B.

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In mid-August, we reported that the deadline for using the 2.1 billion subsidy for the demolition of the Hős utca 15/A-B blocks which has been dragging on for more than two years, expired on 29 June this year. The municipality’s response showed that most of the money, 63% of the total, was spent on renovation and property purchase, which was needed to house the residents of Hős Street. According to the information provided to us by the municipality, nearly 200 million of the money remained from the aid. The original deadline for the demolition of the blocks was the end of 2020, but because of the global coronavirus pandemic, it was extended by 6 months:

The deadline was the end of 2020, but the infamous blocks in Hős Street are still standing

Originally the deadline for the 2,1 billion HUF (5,8 million €) non-refundable government aid that the municipality of Kőbánya has…

Originally, there were about 150 owners in Hős Street, but then, the municipality either bought the apartments or offered them municipal owned houses for rent.

Zsuzsanna Molnár, president of the local NGO, Kontur Association (Kontúr Egyesület) told Átlátszó that she does not understand how the municipality could have accounted for the subsidy, as the original purpose was to demolish Hős Street 15/A-B and move the residents out –

and yet, as far as they know, there are still about 50 families with whom the municipality has not reached an agreement.

About half of the properties, 20-25 apartments, are currently occupied by people living there as either tenants or owners. The others are typically squatters.

This apartment was occupied by a squatter, the picture shows the belongings she left behind after she moved out.

The infamous block is still standing

At the end of September, we went there to see how the demolition of the buildings is going in reality. Talking to an owner in Block B, we found out that there are about 15-16 apartments still occupied, but most of the owners have already moved away. Most of the flats do indeed appear to be unoccupied, as evidenced by broken doors and empty windowsills – which is quite dangerous, as there are several children living in the building who like to discover the empty, abandoned flats.

The fate of the residents is uncertain: it is not yet known how long the demolition of the slum will take, and when exactly the block – which is already in a very poor state – will be completely evicted. At one meeting of the Kőbánya Municipality of 2021 on 26 August 2021, the municipality also discussed the situation and future fate of Hős Street. According to the mayor of the district from the government party Fidesz, Róbert D. Kovács, it only depends on the will of the body of representatives.

Kontur Association estimates that the demolition of the site could be completed within a year.

“It would be much better for them if they would spend a little more money, but then they could sort it out sooner” – said Zsuzsa Molnár. They believe that it is important to compensate the private owners with the amount of money they can use to buy a sustainable, well-maintained apartment in the capital. Taking these factors into account, they would consider 14-16 million HUF acceptable for a property in Hős Street. By comparison, according to the information sent to us by the municipality, the average compensation paid to residents has been much lower, only around 6.33 million HUF.

Flowers in front of an apartment

Something is wrong with the figures

Most of the apartments in Hős Street 15/A-B are 25 m2. According to our calculations, the owners who have been compensated so far have only been paid an average of €4.72 million, contrary to the data sent by the municipality. It is revealing that out of 84 properties, only 28 have received over 5 million. But even if the average price of 6.3 million sent by the municipality is divided by the total amount spent on compensation by the number of homes which the municipality managed to get hold to in recent years, the average price is even lower, at 4.71 million.

Detalied use of the government aid provided by the municipality. They spent HUF 1 billion on the purchase and renovation of properties.

According to information from the municipality of Kőbánya, out of the 2.1 billion forints, about 1.1 billion was used to purchase the properties and almost 400 million euros on the compensation of the evicted families.

Nearly 30 recently purchased apartments are vacant

We were curious to know exactly how many properties District X bought with the subsidy (on which Kőbánya spent 52.77 percent of the government aid, exactly HUF 1 billion, according to our latest data request).

Average size, price and square meter price of the newly bought flats. Source: Municipality of District X.

We found out that a total of 49 flats have been purchased from the money, 28 of which have not yet been given to the people of Hős Street 15/A-B. As they ecplain it: although all of the flats have been offered to the owners, 28 are still being discussed for its future use.

This means that 57.1 % of the properties bought by government aid are still unused, waiting to be sold or rented out to the current residents of Hős Street.

Most of the properties are located in the same district (District X, also called Kőbánya) where the infamous blocks are situated, but a large number of apartments have also been bought in the VIII and XX districts.

Number of dwellings purchased to accommodate Hős Street residents in each district of Budapest

The average price of the apartments was HUF 20,5 million. On this basis, the municipality still has a real estat asset worth EUR 550 million of the EUR 1 billion subsidy for the purchase of housing due to the lack of an agreement with the residents of Hős Street 15/A-B.

Broken windows, continuous mould

We also managed to speak to two residents who have remained in the block for the time being. One of them has been living in Hős Street for 23 years, having moved from a much larger condominium because the rent was so high that she was struggling to make ends meet. When we asked her about life in the block of flats these days, she told us that mould is a constant problem because of the flats being torn down, and that when it rained the water from the sewers flowed like a waterfall.

Broken window in an apartment

She was offered a little more than 5 million for her property, but refused to accept it, as she said she could not afford to buy a flat for that amount. The municipality also offered her an apartment in another, better part of Kőbánya, with a 10-year interest-free loan for 26 million, but she could not even afford the monthly repayments from her pension. Later, she was given an option to rent the same property owned by the municipality, but she did not accept this either.

A boarded-up door to an apartment

“I don’t need a huge flat”

We spoke to another resident who has also lived in the block for a long time and has reached a dead end in his negotiations with the municipality. First, he was offered a smaller property, than his current dwelling (which is also not that big, only 25 m2). The next option was a flat of 26 m2, for which he agreed to pay 2 million HUF in addition to the value of his current flat,

but the municipality insisted on getting at least 10 million.

He could not afford that, nor did he consider it a realistic price. He was then shown a property in another district, but he says it was probably even worse than the current neighbourhood. He said he would prefer getting a privately owned flat, while paying the difference. “I don’t need a huge flat, like 50m2, 25-30 is more than enough for me” – he added.

Written and translated by Zita Szopkó, the original, more detailed Hungarian version of this article is available here.

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