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PREFACE OUR STORY A short overview of social housing in Hungary The methods of the Social Housing Reconstruction Camp Involving the tenants Choosing the location and components of the intervention Engineering design of the construction Involving the volunteers Involving the local municipality Effects on the community Legal background in the case of the camps in Nagykanizsa Suggestions how to tailor the concept of the camp to meet the local needs? Working off rent and other arrears on different properties Involving the tenants or residents Different forms of volunteering Strengthening and preserving the effects of the camp Community 4 6 8 11 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 16 16 18 20 21 22

Dear reader, You have the publication of the Social Housing Reconstruction Camp in your hands. Our main goal is to make others familiar with the concept of the social reconstruction camp and to introduce the work we have done so far. Moreover, based on our experience and with the involvement of the locals we would like to find manageable solutions tailored to the needs of the given environment. We would be glad if with the help of our publication more camps were carried out to which we could contribute as co-operators or advisors.

The main concept of the social working camp is to provide an opportunity for those who live in social housing dwellings and have rent arrears to work off partly or completely by renovating together the surface of the houses they rent. The municipality and the property managers in return for the increased value of their real estate write-off the arrears for the work. The social reconstruction camp organizes all the work and manages the renovations and also propagates the concept among the municipalities and the volunteers. Utilizing our experience we would like to help the local civil society and try to draw the municipalities attention to the opportunities in the labour force of the tenants. [see: Suggestions] The basic problem is a combination of the low number of social housing, the poor condition of the dwellings and the economic vulnerability of the tenants [see: A short overview of social housing in Hungary]. The program tries to intervene in this complex problem in a beneficial way for all participants. We hope that the concept beyond bringing attention to the issue continues to spread and develop in the future. We would like to intervene at places where the renovation brings real improvement in the living conditions, where the tenants either have a reducible amount of arrears, or if they are threatened to be evicted as a result of their large amount of arrears and where most of the work under proper technical management can be carried out without special expertise by the volunteers. [see: The methods of the social reconstruction camp / involvement of the tenants; Choosing the location and components of the intervention] The volunteers working in the reconstruction camps are our second target group. They are provided with the opportunity to get to know and work with people from different social backgrounds. [see: The methods of the social reconstruction camp / involvement of the tenants; Suggestions / Involving secondary school students, Involving local volunteers]. As a result of the cooperation of the different social groups, besides bringing people together, the concept of the ability of being successful as an individual and as a local community is also strengthened. [see: The methods of the social reconstruction camp /Effects on the community]

The concept needs to be flexible in order that new places can adapt to it.. It also promises a great deal of development. Besides realizing the programme for places with different legal statuses and making the living conditions better, it also seems viable to involve future not yet indebted - tenants who live in different areas of the settlements, to strengthen the effects of the camp with complementary soft programmes and also to cooperate with local institutions.

We started in 2009 as an informal group within the frame of College for Advanced Studies in Social Theory, one of the colleges of the Corvinus University of Budapest. A few members of the college, which is rather theory based, travelled with the voluntary network, People from the Street to Nagykanizsa to get informed in an eviction case. That experience led to the birth of the concept. The initial visit was followed by negotiations with the municipality of Nagykanizsa and we also started to apply for grants covering the costs of the construction materials. Having won a grant we reached an agreement with the municipality and our main goal was to organize the renovation itself. Meanwhile other volunteers with a background in architecture and law - joined the group. The engineering design and the technical management were done by Habitat for Humanity, the international NGO which deals with housing poverty. Besides individual donations in order to complement our limited resources we looked for sponsorships. At the same time, the organizers frequently travelled to Nagykanizsa, Ligetvros to get to know the local residents and to inform them about the renovation opportunity. Renovations of the first two houses started in April 2010. Since the local residents showed great interest in the programme, in the first phase we renovated two buildings with 4 flats. During the four weeks of the work 37 local residents and numerous volunteers participated. 5600 forints were written-off from the residents rent arrears for a days work., As a result, during the whole construction arrears were reduced by 1.6 million forints. In August, during the second phase, we renovated another4 flat building with 25 residents, worth more than 1 million forints. We established the Social Reconstruction Camp Association with the current team especially to answer the needs of the housing poor after finishing the work in the second phase. In 2011 we organized volunteers for Autonomia Foundations programme called IDA (see later) to renovate houses in three villages in Tolna county. As a complementary programme we organized two one-week-long childrens camps in the local study hall in 2011 and 2012. In May, 2012 we returned to Ligetvros in Nagykanizsa and this time we worked on a 9 flat building with the participation of 31 local residents, renovating the

insulation and surface of the building. Having carried out a successful campaign for donations we were able to insulate another three buildings roof during the camps operation. We also tried to complement the camp with other programmes to increase the effects of the camp and together with Habitat for Humanity we also organized an energy saving training. The concept has also won the Sozial Marie prize in 2011 which was given by the Unruhe private foundations which has awarded socially innovative projects in the area since 2005.


In Hungary, as a result of the regime change privatization and there was a fundamental shift in the housing policy affecting the most vulnerable social groups(the unemployed, families with a big number of children, low income groups) housing.. Privatization of the dwellings owned by the municipalities has been continuous, since the early 90-ies the number of municipality owned real estate has dropped from 721 thousand to almost 120 thousand and during the year of 2011 another 2,500 units were sold. Today social housing which offers rent for less than the market price makes up only 3% of the whole real estate market, even though the need for social housing is much greater. According to data from 2009, almost 300 thousand households are in need of social housing. Besides the shortage the other major problem related to social housing is the poor condition of the dwellings. After the privatization mainly those units remained in the municipalities ownership which tenants could not afford to buy the property offered by the municipality. For these people besides the constant and daily trouble of making ends meet it is a real challenge to pay the rent and the relatively high utility bills because of the poor conditions of the buildings. This often results in rent arrears. To climb out from the debt spiral is especially difficult for such tenants and eviction is a constant threat. Although the main goal of government policy focusing on the housing problems is usually the increase of available social housing units and the development of the current places, attempts of renovations are quite limited. In 2010 only 52 flats were built and 2.400 were renovated, which makes up only 2% of the municipalities holdings. Problems are due to not only the lack of houses and poor conditions, but also to the lack of a clear housing strategy and policy. Since the different housing subsidiary programmes do not only change from government term to government term (in their content and also in their focus groups), but usually they are introduced with a lack of thoughtful, integral housing policy strategy. Addressing the needs of the housing poor is impossible without a unified housing policy concept, which would deal with the roots of the problem.. Thus, alongside with the shortage and condition problems, it also addresses the problem of the lack of legislation related to private rental housing, the special interests of the related groups and actors (the state, the municipalities, the maintainers and operators,

the social caretaker institutions, potential investors and the tenants) and the operational failures of the institutions involved. The domestic organizations dealing with housing poor usually suggest the development of a complex, long term housing policy to bring a long term solution to every group on the house rental market by, among others, developing and expanding the social housing sector. The establishment of social housing agencies in order to harmonize the work of the three traditional actors of the field (real estate, property management and social care), would be a first step towards the solution.

References: Habitat for Humanity (2011): A Habitat for Humanity Magyarorszg szrevtelei s javaslatai az Otthonteremtsi Stratgia szakmai vitairatval kapcsolatban Habitat for Humanity (2012): ves jelents a lakhatsi szegnysgrl 2011 Hegeds Jzsef (szerk.) (2009): Lakhatsi Szksgletek Magyarorszgon, Habitat for Humanity, 2009 Hegeds Jzsef (2010): A szocilis brlaks szektor bvtsnek alternatvi (recorded session of the conference on Question and Answers i.e. poverty and residence)



The concept of the social working camp would like to help these structural problems of the current social housing system in a way which is beneficial to all participators of the intervention. The idea is that from constantly growing rent arrears, with the renovations, the real estates value is increasing. The organization of the social construction camps has been done by the Social Reconstruction Camp Association. The association secured the technical expertise, the materials, the volunteers and we also kept contact with the inhabitants. The municipalities and the property managers gave us formal and financial support in the projects and they also allowed the tenants to write-off their rent arrears. INVOLVING THE TENANTS According to our concept, the municipalitys real estate is renovated with the involvement of tenants with rent arrears, and the municipality writes off their contributions from their arrears. The tenants can be chosen by several different ways. The association tried to find tenants threatened to be evicted as a result of their large amount of arrears or inhabitants who had an arrears which could be entirely written off. In the case of these two groups the camp could be a one-time chance to make a huge change in their life: their arrears decrease so much that they do not have to face eviction or can get out from their debt spiral by participating in the camp. Members of the association get to know the tenants during the preparations, who, after being informed about the program, voluntarily join to participate. With the decision they commit themselves to the pre-arranged and signed rules, such as participation in the occupational health and safety training and conduct work accordingly during the renovation, follow the instructions of the supervisor and the working hours are accounted according to the agreement. So far we allowed more members of a family to work two or if the work processes and the number of participators allowed it even more members could join. We also worked on weekends and bank holidays so even those could join who were working on weekdays. The volunteers schedule was adjusted to the tenants to complement it.


During the constructions the association kept track of participation by signed attendance forms and then these forms were forwarded to the managers of the arrears. The managers, based on the accurate records and the established rate, wrote-off the value of their work from their arrears. Thus, there is no real cash movement towards the tenants, but their arrears to the municipalities decline in a verifiable manner. CHOOSING THE LOCATION AND COMPONENTS OF THE INTERVENTION It is important that the renovated building (or part of the building) contains enough work which can be made by the volunteers, besides the enhancement of the surrounding of the tenants. Under proper supervision and control a lot of tasks could be done by volunteers and the necessary skilled work is done by outside professionals. Scheduling these tasks beforehand is very important. It is also very important that the work done by the volunteers is safe, therefore mostly one or two level buildings can be renovated. However, when the components are considered it is most important that the work is for the benefit of the locals, so besides increasing the value of the property, it is essential that it makes the living conditions better and the flats maintenance cost lower. The poor conditions of these buildings lead to extra cost of energy loss hitting those who already live in poor financial situations. Insulating the old, rundown buildings (slab, frontage, doors and windows) notably decrease the overheads, which also make the future indebtedness less likely. As a result, we believe that the integration of such works into the program is very important. ENGINEERING DESIGN OF THE CONSTRUCTION The property manager and the association consult and agree in advance on the technical content of the construction. All necessary materials are provided by the municipality and the association based on prearrangements. So far we cover the material costs by grants. The construction is supervised by a professional who is always present during the works. In Nagykanizsa the professional supervision was done by the professionals of Habitat for Humanity. Following the construction the managing institution does the quality control and approves the work and from that date responsibility is taken by the property manager. Therefore it is greatly advised that a representative of the managing institution visit the site daily so incurring problems can be discussed on time and he/she can also see personally that the working hours accounting is real.


INVOLVING THE VOLUNTEERS Involving volunteers during the organization and the renovation works is an important part of the programme. We always make sure that most of the work can be done without any professional skills. The volunteers who participate in the phases of organization and the construction have a chance to meet and work together with people whose lives, problems, would probably remain hidden otherwise. The mutual work can strengthen their solidarity and due to the positive experience these volunteers are more likely to volunteer again. Volunteers can also gain practical skills be it technical or how to run a social project which they can use later in their everyday life. Since volunteers are our second target group, besides university students we try to involve people with various backgrounds to participate. So far we had volunteers for example from City for All, an activist group for homeless people. INVOLVING THE LOCAL MUNICIPALITY AND ITS ADVANTAGES The engagement of the local municipality/property manager is also very important. In Nagykanizsa in 2012 about half of the costs were covered by the property manager. This was used mostly to cover the costs of the works which could not be done by the unskilled volunteers and also to cover accommodation, rubble transportation and scaffolding costs. Moreover, they partially financed material costs. As a result, renovations are cost-effective to the municipality since it can spend the otherwise uncollectable rent arrears on the improvement of the condition of its buildings. Furthermore, The cost of the labour force and the instruments are lower than the market price. Moreover we shall not forget that it is also in the interest of the municipality to make the living conditions cheaper and better for the tenants, to prevent them from further indebtedness and at last but not least to energize a usually apathetic group of people.


EFFECTS ON THE COMMUNITY Based on our experience a social reconstruction camp helps to form the local community and the tenants open up not just among them but also towards the volunteers. The camp causes stir in the life of a community which is lost in the struggles of everyday life and also they can see some fresh faces around them. The mutual work brings a sense of community, the tenants can get to know each other better and because of the similar background an interest group can form. The work can bring a sense of achievement to the often unemployed tenants who usually do not get any recognition from others. It also strengthens the community by putting them in a positive light in the media. And they can feel a sense of personal accomplishment day by day since they are making their own immediate surroundings better and more liveable.




how to adapt the social work camp concept to local conditions? Our goal with the collected project recommendations is to offer municipalities and local civil society a method to renovate local government owned, dilapidated social housing units, and to involve their disadvantaged inhabitants in the improvement of their situation. According to the concept of the social work camps implemented so far, tenants of the social housing units to be renovated identified by their land register reference numbers participate in the activities. Tenants decrease their arrears in proportion to their contribution to the works (measured in working hours). This concept can, however, be adapted to local conditions and needs, along various dimensions the composition of participants, for instance. A major change requires complex programmes, covering multiple aspects of welfare, such as education, health, and labour market, beyond housing and sustainability. Our recommendations do not cover these fields, but our concept can be integrated into a larger scale programme that treats these issues as well. WORKING OFF RENT AND ARREARS ON VARIOUS TYPES OF HOUSING Utilizing unused social housing Studies and policy recommendations concerning housing issues underline that the number of existing housing units is not an issue in Hungary. Therefore, a viable solution does not require new construction as much as the appropriate utilization and distribution of existing dwellings. In some cases, municipalities are unable to renovate uninhabitable buildings for years, while the number of available social housing units is nowhere near the required level. Social work camp allows of renovating heavily dilapidated housing, owned by municipalities,that were not utilized as social housing earlier, and cannot be currently used due to the lack of functioning public utilities. This way, local governments can provide a cost-efficient solution to people in need, while also maintaining municipality owned buildings, protecting them from further deterioration and losing their market value. Future residents can participate in the project as well as current social housing tenants and other residents. Their work should be credited to their rent upon moving in.


Renovating houses of mixed ownership Local governments have been making efforts to privatise their property since the end of communism. This led to the widespread presence of mixed ownership, where a number of apartments in multi-family tenements were privatised, with the rest still owned by the municipality. These apartments can also be renovated: private owners have no arrears towards the municipality, therefore refurbishment will increase the value of their own property. In this arrangement, the owner contributes to the work in return for the increased value of the apartment. Should the home owners be unable to participate in the renovation, the association donates the value of their work in kind to residents in similarly precarious financial situation, while residents of municipality owned units contribute to the value of the renovation and the decrease in arrears according to the social work camp concept. Renovating the surroundings Social work camp can be an adequate instrument to renovate the surroundings of the targeted housing, and to renovate or even create public or community areas in its neighbourhood, if the circumstances allow for it. It is essential that the works make a meaningful contribution to the living conditions of participants, and their community. Their work can be credited through decreasing arrears, or through a temporarily lowered rent. Renovating housing related institutions Instead of municipality owned housing, a project could focus on institutions treating housing related issues (e.g. temporary housing for families, homeless shelters, disaster shelters, other social dwellings). This arrangement could involve former residents (who moved over to social housing, and accumulated arrears there), current residents (who could work off financial contribution to the functioning of the institution, or could even build up savings), or tenants of other local government owned housing with arrears. Although the activities do not aim at directly renovating the housing of the participants, this arrangement still provides assistance to two distinct groups of people with housing difficulties: it involves people with arrears in social housing on one hand, and the residents of the targeted buildings on the other.


Renovation for a lower rent The result of any of the above arrangements could be a permanent lower rent, instead of a one time write-off. This could either mean a long term financial assistance for residents struggling to keep up with paying rent, or an opportunity to avoid accumulating further debts for those who successfully made up for their arrears. Social work camp implemented by the local government While the presence of an external civil society actor is an important element of a social work camp, the role of the local government and the property management institution is just as important. Communication with residents also gains a different meaning if they are in contact with an external civil society organisation as well as an internal, local government based actor. Nevertheless, the role played by the civil organisation could be assumed by a local government related body with a clearly distinct function and set of goals, such as the local family and child welfare services. Whether we choose to implement the project through a civil society organisation or the local government, the task of securing the necessary financial resources could remain entirely with the local government. This way, social work camp could be integrated into EU level urban rehabilitation projects. INVOLVING TENANTS OR RESIDENTS Involving future tenants Unused municipality property could be renovated with the work of future tenants, who could decrease their future rent in this manner. This arrangement benefits prospective tenants who may have been waiting for available accommodation for years, as well as the municipality, which can renovate and utilise its deteriorating and gradually depreciated residential units with very attractive conditions. It is, nonetheless, a fundamental criterion of the social work camp that participants can only be involved on a voluntary basis. Those who do not choose to use this opportunity should not be discriminated against, during the allocation of available social housing. Implementing a project might be a solution to groups in an extremely vulnerable situation, who otherwise have particularly low chances of obtaining decent ac-


commodation (e.g. homeless). Through participating in the renovation process, they do not only gain housing, they could also receive exemption of rent paying for the first few months of their residence in return for their work, which could be crucial in their reinsertion to society. The success of the arrangements briefly described above heavily depends on the close cooperation of the local government, the property management agency, and the social welfare services, as well as an approach on behalf of these actors that strives to treat housing problems in the context of global social hardships. Involving tenants from other parts of the beneficiary municipality Our projects were so far implemented in areas where target social housing units form a distinct neighbourhood, so our beneficiaries were the dwellers of the neighbourhood in question. The project can nevertheless be extended to social housing tenants with arrears living in other parts of the same municipality. Promoting and supporting proactive behaviour among social housing tenants The local government and the property management agency, in cooperation with the family and child welfare services, can provide meaningful contribution to alleviating individual housing difficulties, as well as to tackling institutional challenges of municipality property management, through opening up to independent initiatives of tenants (e.g. partial renovation of their social housing unit in accordance with municipality standards). Other independent or externally supported activities could be renovation with alternative technologies (e.g. straw bale insulation) that make the housing unit more sustainable while requiring minimal financial resources. In this case, the municipality gives permission to the renovation process, although it does not support it with writing-off of arrears. Similarly, renovation tools and material could be provided to tenants for free or at a discount price. VARIOUS FORMS OF VOLUNTEERING Improving the cost-efficiency of construction Involving voluntary work makes renovation more cost-efficient for tenants with an economic disadvantage. This is especially the case with energy efficiency renovation, aiming to reduce utility costs.


Pilot project: IDA Housing project The project was initiated by Autonomia Foundation, Habitat for Humanity Hungary, and Mikrohitel (Micro-crediting) LTD . Project beneficiaries were home-owner families of an economically disadvantaged background, who agreed to accumulate savings to improve their housing conditions. At the end of the saving period, they received a one-time of financial support equal to their savings; furthermore, they can secure a micro-loan. Implementation is more cost-efficient thanks to voluntary work led by professionals, according to pre-agreed planning, saving the price of skilled labour. Involving secondary school students Secondary school students have the opportunity to gain (professional) experience through volunteering. This will become the compulsory practice from 2016 in Hungary, from which date 50 hours of community service will be an obligatory requirement for graduating from secondary education (in accordance with Act no. CXC of 2011 on national public education). It is indispensable, however, to observe the special regulations related to voluntary work of persons under 18 in the case of high school students. Involving local volunteers The project can achieve a deeper impact if it is rooted in the local community. Involving local volunteers whether students or adults creates a contact between the target area and the rest of the town; it opens up other inhabitants of the larger community to various social issues. ENSURING IMPACT AND SUSTAINABILITY OF RESULTS Special programme of the local government / family welfare services The local government or the family welfare services could provide special opportunities to families unable to work off the full value of their arrears. This could mean their more flexible involvement in debt management programmes, or providing further short or long term employment, allowing them to further stabilise their situation.


Trainings There is a number of methods beyond insulation that can help reduce the utilities costs of a household. A training with the objective of raising awareness of these methods can contribute to energy savings in the long run. Besides a one-off debt decrease of tenants, it is also important to reinforce their ability to plan and manage their household finances. Further reducing utility costs Metering utilities on the block level could present a risk to economically disadvantaged families. As a component of the project, it is advisable to set up individual water meters, or pre-paid electricity meters, in order to prevent unrealistically high utility costs, or further indebtedness. Reinforcing communication Communication between the parties that is, tenants and the local government or property management agency needs to be smooth an efficient, initially with the external help of a civil society organisation. A social work camp is an effective tool to develop the channels of communication; nonetheless, in an ideal case the tenants are already able to obtain information on the opportunities provided by the local government, the property management agency, the department of social protection, and the family welfare services. Local government agencies must make efforts to make their channels of information and communication clear and comprehensible to its target audience. Legal assistance Interpreting certain situations with the help of an external, legally trained person could be enormously helpful to tenants of social housing. Consultations could help clarify questions related directly to housing issues, for instance, legalising the tenants current housing situation. On-the-spot action of civil society and social services The camp provides a chance to inform tenants on site about the opportunities and services of welfare institutions. Tenants including persons not involved in the activities can obtain information and ask questions related to their daily issues. At the same time, employees of the welfare system can form an opinion on the renovation, and the participants motivated to improve their situation.


Employment creation Employment services equally have an opportunity to provide on-the-spot services during work camp activities, with the participation of local employment services as well as major local employers. Furthermore, organisers can provide references to tenants, based on their cooperation during the renovation works. COMMUNITY Project closure The closure of renovation can be celebrated with a community event, with the participation of the tenants. A complementary event (concert or play) could attract non-participating tenants, or people from other neighbourhoods, so that project results be visible to a wider audience. Dialogue on community needs After the renovation works, there is an opportunity to start a dialogue between the local government and tenants, in order to help communicate the needs of locals in terms of community life, sports, or other leisure activities in the block or neighbourhood. Once local needs are clearly expressed, the local government can start implementation, possibly with civil society involvement and the use of supplementary external funding. It is important to apply inclusive planning, and focus on real needs. Brainstorming together with the local community can lead to the creation of a common space or area that gives room to community events, festivities, sport, therefore have a positive impact on the daily life of the community.


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Published by: Social Housing Reconstruction Camp Association Written by: Kata Fehr, Zsfia Ivanics Editor in chief: Kata Fehr Editors: Dri Gimes, Istvnn Dr. Komorczki Kinga Mller Translators: Gyuri Bihari, Vera Kovcs , Vera Horvth Photos: Kata Fehr, gnes Kdr Hardcopy Layout and Design: gnes Kdr Budapest, 2012