Hungarian Constitutional Court Strikes Down Discriminatory Housing Decree
21 July 2005
Following a February 22, 2005 decision by the Hungarian Constitutional Court which struck down as unconstitutional provisions of a local government decree regulating social housing, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights and the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights officially requested the Minister of Interior on May 2, to order the county-level administrative offices to examine the local self-government regulations on social housing, with the aim to ensure that criteria for allocating social housing are constitutional.
The Hungarian Constitutional Court struck down as unconstitutional provisions of Budapest 3rd district local government decree regulating social housing. The ERRC had challenged the decree on a number of grounds, such as its incompatibility with the Housing Act and the fact that it has a disproportionate, negative impact on Roma. The Roma Civil Rights Foundation (RCRF), a Budapest-based civil organisation submitted a similar motion, as a result of which the Court ruled that the Budapest 8th and 7th district local government social housing provisions were unconstitutional. Similar complaints submitted by the ERRC and RCRF with respect to the rules governing the allocation of social housing in five other municipalities are currently pending with the Hungarian Constitutional Court.
Following the February rulings, the two civil organisations jointly requested the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights and the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights to examine the problem of arbitrary or discriminatory criteria for the allocation of social housing in Hungary on a nationwide basis. On May 2, the Commissioners issued a report stating, among other things, that based on their experiences "the self-governments often emphasize their interest as owners over their constitutional (social) duties", even though the Housing Act limits their ownership rights by declaring that the conditions of providing housing have to be regulated by the self-governments based on social grounds. Further information regarding on this issue can be found on the ERRC website at http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2247.