ERRC Files Motion Challenging Housing Legislation

11 November 2004

ERRC Brings Social Housing Issues before the Hungarian Constitutional Court

Motion filed with the Hungarian Constitutional Court challenges provisions of six local government decrees concerning access to social housing

On 10 November 2004, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a Budapest-based international public interest law organization, filed a motion with the Hungarian Constitutional Court requesting review of the constitutionality of six Hungarian local government decrees regulating access to social housing. The motion concerns municipal regulations in four districts of Budapest -- Kőbánya, Csepel, III.district, I. district -- and two other cities -- Miskolc and Debrecen. The impugned decrees state that local government authorities are not to provide social housing to people who have previously occupied apartments or other premises in violation of the ownersproperty rights or without legal entitlement. In its motion, the ERRC argues that such provisions exclude those individuals and groups who are the most in need of social housing, and who --in the absence of adequate government housing policies -- often have no option but to resort to different forms of irregular occupation of housing.

As regards the new Hungarian anti-discrimination act as well as in terms of the relevant international legal standards, including those contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Social Charter, the ERRC calls to the Courts attention the fact that the decrees at issue have also had a disparate impact on Hungarian Roma who as a result of their extremely precarious housing situation, documented by numerous domestic and international monitoring organizations, are frequently most in need of social housing and hence are also disproportionately affected by the provisions in question.

In addition, the ERRC challenges the decrees on other constitutional grounds including: the illegality of imposing sanctions retroactively (i.e. on individuals who have been identified as occupying premises without legal title prior to the adoption of the said decrees); the vagueness of the language contained in the decrees, which allows a very wide scope for discretion and in effect invites arbitrary application; the decreesincompatibility with other Hungarian legislation of a superior order, and their incompatibility with the constitutionally recognized rights to human dignity and equality.

Estimates hold that several thousand persons in Hungary are homeless and over a million live in inadequate housing conditions. In recent years, Hungarian authorities have eviscerated the rights of tenants without adopting suitable policies to buffer the impact of dramatic changes to Hungarian law in the area of housing. Hungary has among the lowest levels of social housing in Europe, and in many municipalities existing public housing stocks are being sold. In view of the graveness of the problem addressed by the motion and the approaching winter, the ERRC motion requests that the Hungarian Constitutional Court expedite proceedings and without delay declare the impugned provisions of the six local government decrees null and void.

For details regarding the above action, please contact Anita Danka, ERRC Paralegal (e-mail:, phone: +361413 2200).


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