Budapest: Romani mother and teenagers evicted just before moratorium kicks in
08 November 2023
Just two weeks before the winter moratorium on evictions, on the second of November, a single mother and her two teenage children were evicted from a rental apartment owned by the municipality in the 19th district of Budapest.
Activists from A Város Mindenkié (AVM), together with Aladár Horváth, the president of the Roma Parliament, and MP András Jámbor of the Szikra Movement, formed a human chain in an attempt to prevent the eviction. According to AVM, the police acted unprofessionally in their forceful ‘dismantling’ of the human chain, with one officer brandishing a stun-gun and threatening to use it on the non-violent protestors.
In a Facebook post, Aladár Horváth, who had attempted to negotiate with the deputy mayor on the Romani family’s behalf, accused ‘the self-proclaimed left-wing municipality’ of pushing out tenants in order to demolish the house and sell-off the block, refusing to extend rental contracts, and with court approval, putting ‘arbitrary tenants’ out on the street without providing them with alternative accommodation.
AVM reported that they learned about the actual eviction only two hours before it was scheduled to take place, and expressed surprise that the Socialist-run municipality was “not open to postponing the eviction or settling the matter in compromise.”
The woman and her two teenage children, had lived in the dilapidated 26 m2 municipal ‘low comfort’ rental apartment since 2008, in which they built a shower, while the only toilet is a shared facility in the hallway. As far as AVM could establish, “the family had no debts: according to their statement, they were not in arrears with rent or utility bills, neither now nor before. The municipality also never referred to debt in connection with the family's eviction.”
But the municipality did not extend the family's fixed-term rental contract, which expired on 31 July 2023, citing an unspecified violation of the ‘rules of community coexistence’, and then initiated fast-track eviction proceedings against them as ‘arbitrary tenants’.
The evicted family themselves reported that there had had been a conflict with another resident. But eviction of one party in a conflict is hardly a solution, and constitutes a breach of the local government’s statutory duty to prevent homelessness.
Furthermore, the evicted family produced a statement signed by the majority of neighbors which specifically advocated for them to stay in the apartment, and denied that they had any problems with the family. On the day of the eviction, most of the neighbors AVM encountered were supportive of the family and considered the grounds for their eviction ‘outrageous’.
The socialist mayor and his deputies were not even willing to grant a temporary reprieve to allow AVM work with them to find a solution to prevent the family becoming homeless.
According to the family, the municipality’s ‘family care assistant’ offered only the option of taking the 14-year-old into care if the family could not provide adequate housing after the eviction, and placing the 18-year-old and their mother into a homeless shelter.
The evicted mother of two children works as a kitchen helper, and her earnings fall far short of what would be needed to pay rent in the private sector. Also, as a Romani family, they would invariably encounter discrimination in the rental market. As AVM put it, “the municipality not only deprived the family of the rented apartment they had renovated, but also of the hope that they would have independent housing again in the foreseeable future.”
AVM called on the national leadership of the MSZP and Párbeszéd opposition parties to investigate the role and responsibility of their local politicians in using police force to put a needy mother and her two children on the streets, without any provision for suitable alternative accommodation – “precisely the anti-poor practices for which these parties, rightly, attack Fidesz policy.”