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Hungarian-Greek workshop on Social Rental Agencies

Knowledge sharing to generate solutions

Budapest, 3 July 2017 | Published in Economy, Social

On 19-21 June 2017, a workshop on Social rental Agencies took place in Budapest where Housing Europe facilitated the exchange between Greek and Hungarian partners. The workshop was hosted by the Metropolitan Research Institute (MRI) in the framework of the HomeLab project that tests the Social Rental Agency/Enterprise Model (SRA, SRE) in 4 Central-Eastern European countries, targeting different segments of the vulnerable population, and creating experimental programs that apply the SRA/SRE concept to the local circumstances, and integrate their housing, social and labour market services. Housing Europe is a member of the Dissemination Board of the project.

Participants included:

  • Gabirel Amitsis, Social Security Law Professor on behalf of  the Technology Educational Institute of Athens, the first Academic Partner of Housing Europe
  • Jozsef Hegedus, Managing Director of Metropolitan Research Institute (MRI), Hanna Szemzo, Project Manager of HomeLab, Eszter Somogyi, Sociologist, and Anna Bajomi, Researcher

The Policy Officer of Housing Europe, Edit Lakatos facilitated the exchange of the two sides.

The workshop aimed to discuss both the conceptual requirements and the practical questions surrounding the creation of an SRA/SRE. MRI was happy to provide opportunities to see how SRA/SREs  are actually taking shape, and to have a discussion about the challenges  with practitioners in two field trips.  The two field trips were hosted by HomeLab project partners, the Hungarian Charity Service of Malta (HCSOM) and From Street to Home Association (ULE). A detailed report of both days below.

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Day 1

Field trip to Veszprém SRE run by HomeLab partner the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, Discussions with the Managing Director of the VESZOL (Veszprémi Közösségi Lakásügynökség -  Veszprém Public Housing Agency), Lászlo Moravcsik, and the Head of the Mayor’s Cabinet, Tamas Józsa.

By choosing Veszprem for one of the field trip sites MRI intended to show new and innovative models of housing management. The city of Veszprém introduced a new management model for its housing stock by establishing a management company (VESZOL) jointly owned by the municipality of Veszprém and the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta (HCSOM), and founded in 2016. HCSOM has been active in the city for long time, providing services for the homeless and operating the so-called "Hell's Tower", a partially abandoned high-rise structure in the outskirts of the city with a complicated ownership structure. Funding for VESZOL is covered by the municipality. The aim of the Municipality by setting it up has been to increase the number of municipally-owned flats in the city on the long run, and to provide better management of the current stock even on the short run.

Currently, VESZOL manages more than 200 dwellings, but it plans to involve further units from the private rental market in order to broaden its services – however, given the very high rental price in Veszprém it can be difficult to find dwellings at an appropriate price. For new tenants the rental contract lasts 3 months and then gets reviewed with a possible extension of up to 2 years. The main condition is the level of cooperation between VESZOL and the tenant. Tenants of VESZOL receive social counseling, too. For those tenants that are part of the HomeLab project HCSOM provides social and employment counseling, and has started to get in touch with local employers to find appropriate opportunities for them.  

VESZOL intends to be active in developing new schemes for affordable housing, such as taking over the management of vacant public stock and a closer cooperation with the local companies in need of workforce. VESZOL is a good example that an independent housing company can deliver innovative housing schemes in an efficient way. Following its example, the municipalities of Miskolc and Paks would like to set up similar agencies.

Discussion at the MRI in Budapest in the afternoon

During the session Social Inclusion and Housing was at the center, focusing on the different aspects in Greece and Hungary. Gabriel Amitsis presented the regional and local initiatives to promote social inclusion of vulnerable groups and the state of play of the SRE model in Greece.

As far as the social situation is concerned, Gabriel presented the new Social Housing Agenda which includes 3 main pillars:

  • The National Social Inclusion Strategy (2014)
  • The National Strategy to prevent and combat homelessness (2015)
  • The Social Housing Strategy (2015).

He highlighted that Greece is one of the very few EU Member States without an inclusive social safety net, i.e. in the form of a national General Minimum Income Scheme (MIS), and without any integrated social housing regime. The introduction of a national MIS is among the social clauses of the Troika Memoranda of Understanding, clearly emphasized in the Second (2012) and the Third (2015) Stability Programmes. On top of that, the development of social housing policies in Greece is subject to a complex set of external and internal factors.

Participants discussed the state of play in the CEE region and the perspectives of application of the SRE model in neighboring countries.

Day 2

Field trip in Budapest | Homeless provision and the SRE – the case of a small NGO, 'From Street to Home' (ULE)

This field trip focused on the Housing First approach thta provides homeless couples with stable rental homes. This is not a classic social rental agency, but it showcases a nice example of how, in a non-supportive policy environment, such models can be realized. ULE is a HomeLab partner, and within the framework of the project it supplements the social and housing services it normally provides to its clients with employment ones.

As part of the field trip the group visited a tenant of ULE, and later, in the office of ULE founder and manager, Vera Kovacs described their daily work. Utcáról Lakásba Egyesület (ULE) (”From Street to Home Association”) was founded in 2012 with the objective to provide housing for homeless. On a larger scale, they also campaign for change in social and housing policy, where affordable housing is ensured for everyone.  

ULE has negotiated contracts with three municipalities in Budapest that provide it with dwellings in need of renovation. ULE renovates these communal flats with the help of its volunteers (around 100-150 volunteers annually) and future tenants and allows homeless people to move in. At the moment, the organization manages 11 flats that belong to three city districts, while it gets two units annually from the municipality of the 10th district. Concerning the tenancy agreement, the minimum timeframe is 2 years with the possibility of extension. ULE also manages 3 units provided by a private donor, and is in the process of buying mobile homes for the same purpose.

In addition, in the frame of its ‘Work fair’ programme ULE provides counselling and training for its tenants, and has set up a website that connects them with potential employers. ‘From Street to Home’ was also nominated for SocialMarie Prize 2017 which focuses on innovative answers to societal challenges. This kind of a social housing agency is a good example of how low small scale initiatives work.

Discussion at MRI on the institutional necessities of SRE

During the afternoon session, József Hegedüs presented the work of MRI and talked about the different housing models in new Member States.  

József highlighted the MRI view concerning the need for a broad housing provision, the role of NGOs, charities and the public in creating the SRE. Finally, the participants exchanged on the role of the welfare system – problems, pitfalls and successes. At the closing session possible cooperation opportunities have been discussed to create mutual projects and to further enhance knowledge exchange.


The workshops were useful to establish a first contact between MRI and the Technical Educational Institute of Athens. Housing Europe acknowledges the added value of the social rental agency model and will help its Greek partner to draw inspiration for the (re)development of a form of Greek social housing sector. There is definitely more room to exchange knowledge especially on the challenges which are similar in Hungary and Greece. Taking into consideration that these countries need partially different approaches and solutions than the ones applied in Western Europe, cooperation in research would be the next step.

The parties will have further opportunities to discuss alternative models in the frame of the new ad-hoc working group of Housing Europe on housing systems in transition and also in Budapest in 2019 during the HomeLab final conference.