Hungarian Constitutional Court Strikes Down Discriminatory Housing Decree - Ruling Reverses Local Rules Precluding Roma from Access to Social Housing
02 March 2005
Budapest. In a decision communicated today, on February 22, the Hungarian Constitutional Court struck down as unconstitutional provisions of a Budapest 3rd District Local Government decree regulating social housing. The ERRC had challenged the decree on a number of grounds, including the fact of its having a disproportionate, negative impact on Roma. The ERRC motion among other things tested Hungary's new anti-discrimination law, adopted in December 2003 to comply with European Union rules.
Roma currently face crisis conditions in the field of housing in Hungary. As the international community has strengthened its commitments to the right to adequate housing and the need to provide housing to the most vulnerable sectors of society, Hungary has dramatically weakened protections available to tenants. In particular, in May 2000, legislation entered into effect allowing the notary -- an employee of the municipality -- powers to order evictions absent a court procedure. A notary decision ordering eviction must be implemented within eight days, and appeals are not suspensive.
Local authorities in Hungary have in recent years also sold off significant amounts of the public (including social) housing stocks, creating a situation in which Hungary may not be able in practice to meet the housing needs of the poor and/or extremely poor. Owing to widespread anti-Romani sentiment existing in Hungary, allegations of racial discrimination in the allocation of public housing are often plausible.
In its February 22 decision, the Constitutional Court found illegal provisions of the Budapest 3rd District Local Government housing decree excluding from eligibility for social housing persons who previously occupied apartments or other premises in violation of the owners' property rights or without legal entitlement. The Court held that this decree was in conflict with the Hungarian Housing Act, as it interferes with the requirement that local governments provide housing to the socially weak. The Court reaffirmed that criteria for social housing must be social in nature.
The decision is particularly important in developing the right to adequate housing under Hungarian domestic law. Similar complaints brought by the ERRC in November 2004 challenging the local housing regulations of four other Hungarian municipalities are currently pending with the Hungarian Constitutional Court.
Information on the action can be found at http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2050. For further information, please contact ERRC Staff Attorney Anita Danka: firstname.lastname@example.org, +(36 1) 41 32 200.