International Conference on the Implementation and Harmonization of National Policies on Roma, Sinti and Travellers “Guidelines for a Common Vision”, Bucharest, 4 and 5 May 2006

Housing Policy in the Slovak Republik

Ms Klára Orgovánová – Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Government for Roma Community

    1. Description of the situation

The Government’s strategy on Roma communities is based on documents that it has adopted, the key of them being the Basic Theses of the Government’s Policy for the Integration of Roma Communities of 2003. One of the fundamental areas of the implementation of the governmental programmes that need to be urgently dealt with is housing.

The standard of housing of Roma living in integrated and segregated areas differ substantially. The standard of housing in segregated areas is usually far below that of the majority population. Most of the homes in Roma settlements can be described as simple dwellings built of wood, soil and metal sheets. They fail to meet the current technical standards, they were built by Roma on their own and the access to municipal infrastructure and public services is non-existent or very limited. The most serious problem is the inadequate access to electricity, water supply, sewerage and regular waste collection.

The majority of Roma in the segregated settlements own neither their dwellings nor the land on which they are built. Land ownership relations in some of the settlements still have not been resolved preventing the improvement of Roma’s housing standard as neither individuals nor municipalities are willing to invest in the maintenance of buildings or local infrastructure unless ownership relations have been settled.

For a policy to be effective, it must be based on adequate data. That is one of the reasons why the Office of the Government’s Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities commissioned a socio-graphic survey of Roma settlements in 2003.

The subject of the survey were settlements whose population is subjectively perceived by the social neighbourhood as Roma communities, based on anthropological attributes, cultural affiliation and lifestyle, and is subjectively perceived as a group that differs from others. The socio-graphic survey of the Roma settlements focused on the nature of the settlements and the life in them, not on particular individuals. Therefore, no personal data were collected in the survey. It is not possible to precisely identify individual persons using the data collected. In this sense, the survey fully complied with Personal Data Protection Act No. 428/2002 Coll.

Let me briefly inform you about some of the survey’s results. Based on the survey’s results, it can be estimated that the population of Roma in Slovakia is close to the lower level demographic estimates, i.e. around 320 thousand. Around 60 percent of them are integrated and live dispersed among the majority population. The remaining 40 percent live in:

    - municipal concentrations,
    - settlements located in the outskirts of municipalities,
    - settlements that are distant or separated from the municipality by a natural or artificial barrier (a watercourse, railroad, road...).

In general, it can be said that the farther away the settlement is from the parent municipality, the worse the quality of life in it.
The survey identified 1 575 settlements of various types inhabited by communities perceived by the majority population as Roma. 149 of the settlements can be considered segregated, which means that they are located on the outskirts or outside a municipality, have no water supply and the proportion of illegal homes exceeds 20%.
With regard to the availability of utility networks:
- electricity is available in 91 % of settlements;
- water supply is available in 39 % of settlements;
- gas is available in 15 % of settlements;
- sewerage systems are available only in 13 % of settlements;

With regard to legality of the settlements:
- almost one third of the dwellings in Roma settlements are illegal (these are above all shacks, mobile shelters, non-residential buildings, as well as houses).
- the greatest proportion of illegal settlements (45.4 %) can be found in settlements outside municipalities;
- the most frequent type of illegal dwellings is shacks, which account for almost 16% of all homes.
One of the uses of the socio-graphic survey’s results was the creation of the list of Roma settlements in Slovakia as a priority objective of projects aimed at helping the marginalised Roma communities. This list was approved by the Government in April 2005 as part of the report on progress in the implementation of the commitments assumed in Slovakia’s position on the European Commission’s negotiating mandate for the National Development Plan for CSF negotiations

One of the programmes dealing with the issue of housing of the population in Roma settlements is the programme of the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development implemented on the basis of a governmental resolution of 2001 concerning the Proposal to Support the Construction of Municipal Rental Flats of a Different Standard Designed to House Persons in Material Distress and the Construction of Technical Infrastructure in Roma Settlements. State budget funds to finance housing for people in material distress are allocated every year in the form of subsidies for municipalities.

An overview of the subsidies provided for the construction of rental flats and technical infrastructure for the population of Roma settlements in thousands of SKK.

 

until 1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

total

TI

15 300.00

6 588.18

22 852.18

75 610.13

0.00

37 744.75

158 095.24

HC

43 200.00

9 503.00

9 503.00

60 006.24

0.00

143 292.18

265 504.42

total

58 500.00

16 091.18

32 355.18

135 616.37

0.00

181 036.93

423 599.66

2005 total

TI 25 709.80 183 805.04

HC 190 907.40 456 417.82

TOTAL 216 617.20 640 216.86

TI – technical infrastructure; HC – housing construction;
The funding allocated for the construction of flats in 2006 amounts to SKK 143 million (EUR 3.8 million).

1 265 lower standard flats have been built as of today in 54 municipalities in the Prešov, Košice and Banská Bystrica regions. All of the newly built flats must meet the minimum sanitary standards set by a regulation of the Ministry of Health. This means that even lower-standard flats must be equipped with basic facilities – a washbasin, shower, flushing toilet, an installation for the preparation of hot water, and local heating - and allow for the installation of a cooking appliance.

At the same time, the state subsidies focus on site preparation for the construction of housing and technical infrastructure – the subsidies are provided for the construction of public water mains, sewerage systems, including waste water treatment, and local roads, including public lighting. The municipality can receive a subsidy amounting to as much as 80 % of the cost of the construction project. Technical infrastructure for Roma settlements has been built in 76 municipalities.

As regards the housing policy, the Long-term Concept of Housing for Marginalised Population Groups and the Model of Financing for the Concept were prepared in co-operation with the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development The document was approved by the Government in January 2005. The objective of the concept was to propose the principles and supporting instruments for ensuring an appropriate standard of housing for the populations of socially excluded communities.

The following tasks have been approved for the Ministry:

    - ensure the preparation of project documentation for affordable lower-standard apartment buildings that could be repeatedly used as plans for the construction of flats in the settlements of socially excluded communities;
    - ensure the provision of funding for tackling the issue of housing of the population of socially excluded communities within the framework of the approved housing development programme for the relevant year;
    - in the context of the preparation of the National Strategic Reference Framework, propose a method for using EU structural funds for co-financing of the activities related to the development of housing for marginalised population groups in 2007-2013, in co-operation with the Minister of Finance, Minister of Economy, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Minister of the Environment and the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Human Rights and Minorities.

With regard to the provision of housing to the population of Roma communities, it is planned to maintain the current model for the financing of the construction of municipal rental flats in Slovakia. Certain changes and modifications will be made in accordance with the needs of the society and the amount of state budget funding available.

    2. Adequate standard of housing

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Slovak Republic is committed to ensure adequate standard of housing without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour of skin, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (Article 11 (1) of the Covenant).

However, for financial and other reasons, the situation in this area continues to be unsatisfactory and a significant proportion of Roma families do not enjoy an adequate standard of housing. It has to be borne in mind that adequate standard of housing cannot be narrowed down to merely having a roof over one’s head – it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.1
In connection with the unsatisfactory standard of housing faced by a significant proportion of Roma families, it should be emphasised that one of the core obligations that must be unconditionally guaranteed by the state regardless of the economic conditions in the country, as stipulated by the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health enacted in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which forms part of Slovakia’s legal system2, is the obligation to ensure access to sanitation and an adequate supply of safe and potable water.3

3. Recommendations

    1. Ensure access for the population of Roma settlements to basic shelter, housing, sanitation, utility networks and public services by means of electrification, construction of sewerage systems, access roads, adequate supply of drinking water, etc.
    2. Prevent segregation when constructing new homes for the population of Roma settlements.
    3. Ensure the settlement of land ownership (expropriation, legalisation of land tenure and existing constructions in Roma settlements).
    4. Ensure refurbishment of the existing housing stock.
    5. Increase the standard of housing within the framework of the ongoing “Programme to Support the Construction of Municipal Rental Flats of a Different Standard Designed to House Persons in Material Distress and the Construction of Technical Infrastructure in Roma Settlements”, create conditions for the continued implementation of the programme, including the allocation of state budget funding for the implementation of the programme.
    6. Make the provision of state subsidies for the construction of municipal flats conditional on the elaboration of comprehensive development plans interconnected with the National Development Plan. In the context of the comprehensive development programmes, we have to focus on surveying housing needs with active participation by the future users prior to the construction of new flats, active participation of the future users in the construction and maintenance of the new flats, allocation of space for community and educational activities, and co-operation between Roma and non-Roma population in the municipality.
    7. Enable representatives of the future users of the flats to take part in the administration of the housing stock and gradually transfer the ownership of the flats from municipalities to the users by 2010.
    8. Deal with the issue of official permanent residence of the inhabitants of Roma settlements.
    9. Interconnect the activities of the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development under the Comprehensive Roma Settlement Development Programme and the Programme to Support the Construction of Municipal Rental Flats of a Different Standard Designed to House Persons in Material Distress and the Construction of Technical Infrastructure in Roma Settlements with the comprehensive development programmes of municipalities.
    10. Create conditions in the public procurement process for greater participation of Roma businesses in housing construction.


1 General Comment No. 4 of the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to adequate housing. (CESCR General Comment No. 4, Article 11(1): The Right to Adequate Housing, E/1992/23 (1991), paragraph 7)

2 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Decree No. 120/1976 Coll.)

3 General Comment No. 14 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to the highest attainable standard of health. (The right to the highest attainable standard of health: 11/08/2000, CESCR General Comment 14, E/C.12/2000/4, CESCR, General Comment 14), paragraph 43.