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Social housing or ghettos?

August 16th, 2011

Left-wing commentators fear that the government’s latest housing scheme will produce a suburban ghetto. The Ministry of Interior has announced plans to build new homes for families who can no longer service their debts. The first houses are to be built in a small municipality 30 kilometres from Budapest.

According to the government press release, Hungarians who default on their loans (mostly denominated in foreign currencies) will be given the opportunity to leave their homes and rent more affordable state-owned houses built on the outskirts of Ócsa. The municipality was selected because of its proximity to Budapest and good rail and road connections. The construction of the new social housing in an area which is currently arable land will start later this year, with the involvement of both those participating in public work schemes and the future dwellers. All the planned family houses will have small gardens so that their inhabitants can grow fruit and vegetables. The opposition parties find the plan unacceptable and fear that it will lead to ghettoization and stigmatization.

Are the schools in Ócsa prepared to enrol children who will move to the town? How will the new inhabitants reach their workplaces, if they have jobs at all? Or are they going to be employed locally? What will the locals think?” asks Ákos Tóth in the left-wing Népszabadság, echoing the concerns of the opposition Socialists (MSZP) and LMP.

Tóth warns that relocating people who are unable to service their debts may cause new problems. The future tenants of the planned state-owned residential area will be cut off from their workplaces, and their children will have to attend new schools. It is also unrealistic to suppose that people relocated from cities will be prepared to grow their own produce or to keep livestock, Tóth notes.

The government is right to realize that it has to act, otherwise hundreds of thousands of Hungarians will go bankrupt. The government is also right to react to the plight of those who may lose their homes,” writes Zoltán Ceglédi in the liberal Hírszerző.

He deems the details of the goverment’s plans worrying, nonetheless. He finds it humiliating that the government stresses the importance of growing vegetables, which suggests that those who default on their loans are lazy. More importantly, it is far from clear whether being offered an affordable home in Ócsa will actually help people who work far away, he adds.

Instead of blaming everything on Hungarians who are unable to service their debts, banks should also share the responsibility, Ceglédi suggests.

“The planned ’Currency Village’ is a dead end,” Ceglédi concludes. Social housing will only be available to those who are able to pay the rent and can afford the utilities. By implementing this scheme, the government will reintroduce “a caste-system abolished after the Second World War.”

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