The title of the strategy is a reference to the City’s Integrated Urban Development Strategy, entitled “At Home in Budapest”, which also stressed the need for extending the affordable housing sector. The Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Budapest on Housing and Social Policy, Bálint Misetics, and Housing Europe's Senior Policy Officer, Edit Lakatos explain what does the strategy stand for.
In its foreword, the Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karacsony highlights that ‘We must recognise that homelessness is not - and cannot be - solved by homeless services alone. We have to recognise that the moral and social policy challenge cannot be described by the arithmetical question of how many beds there are in the capital's shelters. We need to understand that the more important arithmetical question is how the income of the poorest city dwellers compares with the cost of housing.’
The following basic principles guided the strategy making such as:
- A shift in mindset: In contrast to the dominant policy approach of the last three decades, which has largely been limited to providing and funding shelters and various services for people who are already homeless, much more attention needs to be paid – and resources allocated – to the prevention of homelessness, and to the provision of affordable housing to those who are homeless. Providing housing for homeless people and families should not be seen as the final outcome of a social inclusion process, but as a condition for social inclusion that also underpins and facilitates the management and resolution of other problems that homeless people and families might face, such as health and labour market problems.
- Evidence-based policy making The preparation of the Strategy involved the collection and processing of a wide range of available statistical, administrative and research data in Hungary. For some key areas where available data were not available, not sufficient or up to date, the Strategy relies on its own exploratory data collection. These data collections were also used to facilitate the participation of social workers working with homeless families or in outreach programs.
- Stakeholder participation: people experiencing homelessness were actively participating in the development of the strategy through several open forums organised in shelters and daytime centres, and through a committee of experts by experience. Social workers were also invited to share their experiences and recommendations in a variety of workshops and consultations.
With these principles in mind, the four overarching goals of the strategy include the strengthening of prevention, provision of affordable housing, a decrease of rough sleeping as well as dignified assistance in shelters.
The strategy builds on the Integrated Urban Development Strategy, and in relation to their implementation and promotion, on the planned programmes of the Territorial and Settlement Development Operative Program:
- in particular the Housing Guarantee scheme, which would provide affordable housing for specific groups of homeless people through the provision of rent subsidies (and, where appropriate, related social services) (ESF, 7.4 billion HUF), which
- in view of the informality and housing insecurity that characterises the private rental sector, is linked to the programmes for the creation of a social rental housing agency (supported by ESF, 1.5 billion HUF; and by ERDF, 8.5 billion HUF that will be used for the renovation of the existing housing stock,); also
- the Complex health, social and labour market support (ESF, 4.2 billion HUF) programme, and
- to a lesser extent, mainly in relation to professional and human resource development of homelessness-related social and child welfare services, for the Social Services Capacity Building (ESF, HUF 6.9 billion) programme.
Since the Strategy relies heavily on funds from the European Union, its implementation is highly dependent on the availability of these funds – in the context of intense legal and political debates between Hungary’s central government and the European Commission.
From a prevention perspective, the Strategy pays particular attention to preventing young people leaving institutional care from becoming homeless and to protecting victims of intimate partner and domestic violence.
To this end, the Municipality will provide funds for the development of municipal and other services to prevent homelessness in the city’s 23 districts through the Metropolitan Solidarity Fund and the Metropolitan Social Public Foundation; and is also launching a debt management programme to deal with the significant rent arrears in the municipal rental sector that have accumulated over many years.
Finally, Budapest will examine how it can most effectively provide rapid, flexible legal and social support to residents in acute housing crisis situations, as Barcelona or Helsinki does.