Hungary is facing a growing housing crisis marked by substandard apartments, overcrowding, and long waiting lists for social accommodation, prompting local authorities to urge government action.
For years, Aniko Bálazs and her three children were forced to live in a storage cellar due to Hungary's high rental prices and a lack of apartments for families in need.
Aniko Bálazs, a municipal housing resident, shared her ordeal, telling CGTN: "I raised my three boys there; one of them has a chronic illness. We rented the cellar for 12 years. Finally, after many years on a municipal waiting list, I was eligible to rent this 24 square meter apartment."
Recent data reveals that around 3 million Hungarians, which accounts for around a third of the population, are grappling with housing costs. Affordable rental properties are often "in poor condition, including many that are in converted buildings not originally designed to house people," as noted by Vera Kovacs, President of the Streets to Home Association, who emphasized the need for "a national-level housing policy system to address the problem."
Kovacs also pointed out that there used to be "a wide range of stock owned or handled by local municipalities," but privatization under the changed political system left only "the lowest stock in the worst condition" in public hands.
Skyrocketing property costs, which have risen by 180 percent over the last 10 years, pose another significant challenge, with Hungary ranking second steepest rise in the European Union after Estonia.
Last year, the average price per square meter in Budapest was around $4,600, making it difficult for many families to purchase flats. Remarkably, almost half of all buyers are foreign investors buying up properties.
Critics argue that the Hungarian government's decision to delegate public housing management to local authorities has exacerbated the problem. Molnar Guyri, a housing advisor for the city of Budapest, lamented: "We have a very strange, I can even say maybe perverted housing and social policy. There is no State-level housing policy."
Despite the absence of national oversight, Budapest witnessed the renovation of at least 200 apartments last year, along with changes in its social housing criteria. Guyri explained: "There is now a point system and the decision depends on the social circumstances, so if someone's conditions are worse then the chance to get an apartment from the municipality is higher."
In the previous year, Hungarian NGOs submitted a proposal to the government, advocating for ministerial oversight, targeted housing initiatives, state renovation programs, and a recognition that housing is a fundamental right to date. They have received no response.