Slovakia

URBANIZATION

SLOVAKIA

History of cities – heritage

Urban Housing

Socialistic industrialization brought along major development of modern urban environment, housing development in form of blocks of flats providing higher living standards compared to villages and economic and employment opportunities. Decisive element in urbanisation of Slovakia in 20th century therefore represented migration of rural population to towns. State planned centralised economy allowed for controlled and planned support of growth of middle-sized towns (20-50 thousand citizens). The above mentioned factors resulted in level of urbanisation rising between 1950 to 1989 from 24.9% to 56.7%, while number of towns almost doubled from 65 to 123 during the period.

Recent decade brought formation of opposite trends and gradual decrease of standard urbanisation, which achieved its peak at cca 57% during the change of the millennia (last census results show decline to 54.35% as continuation of last decade’s trend). Intensive development of sub-urban municipalities in vicinity of major cities forms a new form of urban development with population engaged more in tertiary and quaternary sector seeking higher living standards in family houses. As for the upcoming trends, the decline of rural population is expected, however, not resulting into increased number of city dwellers, but further growth of city-satellites in viable communing distance to the centres of economic activities extending thus urban type of living to surrounding villages.

Rural Housing

Despite its modern economy and society, Slovakia has a significant rural element. About 45% of Slovaks live in villages with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, and 14% live in villages with fewer than 1,000. Slovakia is thus with 54.35% citizens living in 138 cities out of total 2.890 municipalities the second least urbanized country in the EU. Another speciality of Slovakia is that it has a relatively small number of large cities. Only Bratislava and Kosice have more than 200.000 inhabitants. Just eight cities have 50.000-100.000 inhabitants, twenty-five are in category of 20.000-50.000 and 102 towns have less than 20.000 inhabitants.

Traditionally rural environment of Slovakia started to change more dramatically only with its industrialization and structural changes in economy after WWII. Existence of few developed towns at that time was mainly related to patterns of trade and mining industry during medieval times and modest development of industry in the 19th and first half of the 20th century taking place mainly in the valleys of rivers. Vast majority of population (over 75%) was living in villages occupied economically primarily in agriculture and primary economy.

Many homes are not properly insulated including the rigors of winter. They do not have the means to restore their habitat while heating costs continue to rise . Often deemed unreliable clients, they do not have access to mortgage credit in commercial banks. Source : Habitat for Humanity Slovakia (1)

LEGAL ASPECTS

Right to Housing

The Slovak Constitution does not contain provisions guaranteeing the right to housing, only provisions guaranteeing protection of privacy and protection of home.

The main state instrument for support of housing is the State Fund for Promoting Housing (Act Nr 607/2003). Other laws concerning housing are the following:

  • The Civil Code (Act Nr. 19/1964 and further amendments) that regulates the protection of tenants;
  • The Decree of the ministry of Finance Nr. 2/2008 that regulates rents in denationalized flats (temporarily, this norm can be abolished any time);
  • The Act Nr. 599/2003 that regulates state aid for people finding themselves in extremely bad social situation.

Slovak Republic ratified the Revised European Social Charter on 23/04/2009, accepting 86 of the Revised Charter’s 98 paragraphs, except for the Article 31 on the right to housing. It signed but not yet ratified the Additional Protocol providing for a system of collective complaints on 18/11/1999.

Source : FEANTSA, 2012 (2)

The right is, however, not directly enforceable at court, unless any specific legal provision is breached and state does not have any direct means to directly secure housing to everyone. The state shifted major responsibilities for housing to citizens by privatisation and operates only by system of instruments aimed at supporting the fulfilment of the right to housing.

Forced Eviction

Forced evictions are in general not very common in Slovakia, as the legal system provides quite systematic and extensive protection of tenants (also in cases of their failure to follow provisions of a lease contract); judicial decision must be obtained for an eviction to be legal.

Some cases, however, did occur recently upon initiative of municipalities in particular with respect to Roma families living in illegal shelters/dwellings built on foreign land, which were (most likely illegally) removed on the basis of the misuse of environmental law provisions as illegal dumps. Such cases, which are most likely in breach of rights guaranteed by the international law, raised public attention and harsh criticism of non-governmental organisation. As many of Roma settlings are illegal and located on a foreign land and tensions with majority population are constantly growing, the increase in number of such cases may reasonably be expected.

Land Right

With very few exceptions, land may be owned, used and transferred freely in Slovakia. The most common title to real estate is full ownership (“freehold” title) which entitles to a full range of perpetual rights to use and enjoy the real estate. It is also possible to use the real estate on the basis of an easement or a lease.

The Cadastral Register registers ownership to every real estate in Slovakia. It also discloses details on the property owner and indicates the extent to which the property is encumbered. Any right in rem acquired on a contractual basis becomes effective through registration in the Cadastral Register as of the day the registration decision is issued. As a general rule, one can rely upon information contained in the register unless such information is proven to be unreliable/incorrect.

Leases are freely negotiable, but are subject to certain mandatory provisions of the Civil Code and the Act on the Lease and Sublease of Non-Residential Premises. Restrictions concern mainly lease commencement and termination rights, where the contractual freedom is limited, or even excluded in some cases.

Land Grabbing

Vulnerable Groups

  • ROMA POPULATION : The Roma population , estimated at 2% of the population in Slovakia ( but unofficial estimates think that this figure is much higher ), lives in conditions of extreme poverty, with housing without access to safe drinking water system dewatering . Adults and children often live in a shack in one piece sometimes with only one bed . They are located primarily in the eastern part of the country, the less economically developed and with a very high unemployment rate. Source : Habitat for Humanity Slovaquia (1)

  • Homelessness
  • Joung people
  • Old people
  • Women

Some interesting practices

  • HOMELESS STREET JOURNAL : A civil association “Against the Stream” (Proti prúdu) was founded through the initiative of students of social work in order to create a street journal “Nota Bene”. The journal has been running since September 2001, growing from 12 vendors at the end of the first month to more than 500 in 2010 and more than 25 000 copies sold monthly in 20 towns across the country. The journal is distributed solely by vendors, while a vendor buys one copy for 0.7 EUR from the civil association and sells it at the street for 1.4 EUR, keeping the difference as stable economic income. Homeless people thus get a chance to help themselves by their own effort, while active participation in solving situation gives them the feeling of honour and importance; a client is not an object of help but is led to self-help. Selling journal improves communication and social abilities and chances to build up the natural social net getting client out of social isolation. The project enables common persons to help concrete people in need by buying the journal. It contains also additional services like social streetwork and counselling, access to internet, telephone, deposit of personal documents and money and free time activities as well.
  • SELF CONSTRUCTION OF HOUSES IN ROMA SETTLEMENTS : ETP Slovakia, the Slovak NGO dealing with all aspects of social inclusion of marginalised Roma, have developed and piloted a programme which improves the situation of housing in ghettos as a part of holistic method based on high quality comprehensive social services. The project provides an attractive and sustainable housing solution using a proportion of recycled materials, land donated/sold by municipalities and labour of the prospective Roma owners. ETP supports and assists families by engaging them into financial programs (Financial literacy, Savings and Microloan programs) through which construction is financed, pays a construction specialist who helps with construction works and a lawyer assisting with paperwork. Based on the above mentioned approach, motivated Roma are able to achieve in short term (6 months) affordable, energetically effective and legal own housing. Participants are selected from the most motivated Roma in communities to whom long-term social services were provided, are engaged into the planning process, construction work, and finance their own homes. They also acquire work habits and construction skills. After the completion of the pilot project, there is a completion of first 15 houses planned in 2013.

SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS

Housing Market

According to INSEE, in 2007, 89% of Slovak households owned their homes (EU average = 65%).

The main tasks of housing policy in Slovakia during the previous decades were defined by the processes of deregulation of the housing market and privatization of the housing stock. During the communist regime a housing dwelling was regarded as a social right and the objective of housing policy was to ensure housing to every household. Housing construction and distribution of dwellings was a subject of central planning and allocation system. During the transition period the government shifted responsibility to private owners by privatizing dwellings.

The ownership housing in Slovakia is by far the most popular form of housing. According to the data from 2008, from the total number of flats in the Slovak Republic, 93% of flats are owned by citizens (approx. 50% situated in family houses and 26% in residential buildings), while only 4% of flats were owned by cooperatives and approx. 3% of flats were in public ownership. The present situation is the result of unprecedented scope of privatisation of housing stock after fall of communism – in 1991 private ownership accounted only to 51% and 27% of housing stocked was owned publicly.

This change has carried plenty of assets – new owners are motivated in maintenance of their dwellings and common areas. Privatisation supported flexibility and a ones responsibility. On the other hand, a new construction of rental flats was very low, an affordability of rental dwellings has become restricted.

The rental housing in Slovakia is one of the key problems which must be solved in terms of availability and affordability. As mentioned above, the municipalities and state currently own less than 3% of flats, which compared to EU countries with the public rental sector represents in average 18% proves very limited possibilities for social public housing policies, indeed having negative impact on mobility of working force as well.

At the same time, private rental sector is not sufficiently developed yet, mainly as a consequence of the past price regulation of the rent and excessive protection of tenants, arising from the applicable civil regulation governing the tenancy of flats. It is necessary to gradually remove the barriers preventing the private sector from being widely useful in the area of housing development and rental sector.

Quality of Housing

The housing stock of Slovakia constitutes from approx. 1,884,846 dwellings, of which approx. 1,665,536 were permanently occupied. As of 2010 approx. 331 flats of permanently occupied dwellings fell on one thousand citizens in Slovakia. Slovakia, however, has the smallest amount of dwellings per thousand inhabitants, the highest number of persons per dwelling and the second lowest living floor area per a person among transition economies of the CEE. In Slovakia almost a half of dwellings are over 35 years old. Even though the Slovak Republic is gradually catching up with advanced countries of Western Europe with its quantity indicators, it has still not reached their level.

As far as the housing quality is concerned, it is perceived as most important to improve the technical conditions of existing housing stock, contribute to the lengthening of its lifespan, decrease of its energy demands and eliminate some technical defects of existing buildings (e.g. roof leakages, use of obsolete lifts, insufficient thermal and insulating properties of perimeter structures).

Informal Housing / Slum / Homeless

ROLE OF PUBLIC AUTHORITIES

States’ Competencies

The state’s responsibility is mainly to prepare the state housing policy concept, create a system of economic tools in the area of subsidy, credit and tax policies in support of housing, earmark a volume of financial resources for the housing development mainly through financing of housing construction in the public rental sector, revitalization of city districts and renewal of housing stock. The state shall also create legal environment stimulating the housing development including suitable conditions for the participation of private sector and banking in all activities connected with the housing development, as well as on the necessary methodology activities in this area. These tasks are undertaken mainly through the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development of the SR as the state housing policy gestor and the State Housing Development Fund.

The competencies of municipalities are mainly focused on the creation of spatial conditions for the housing development within the territorial development of settlements. The municipalities should mainly ensure provision, approval and updating of zoning documentation, adopt local housing development programs including housing stock renewal programs, identify housing needs of citizens, in particular socially disadvantaged groups and engage in their satisfaction through social housing programs and management and use of the municipality housing stock.

Public Housing

Definition and situation in 2012

A new act on subsidies for housing development, valid since January 1st 2011, has adopted a definition of social housing as « housing acquired with use of public funds, addressed for adequate and humanly decent housing of individuals who are not able to ensure housing with their own effort and meet the conditions under this Act ». Social housing is also permanent housing in residential buildings or accommodation financed from public funds and provided within the care under specific regulations.

In the Slovak Republic, two types of housing stock can be considered as social housing: new social flats constructed using a state subsidy under the ownership of municipalities, earmarked for social needs and occupied according to defined criteria (according to a scheme that has been in place now for 14 years), and a small part of the existing public stock owned by municipalities. As regards to this latter, it should be noted that dwellings are occupied by sitting tenants of former state owned housing who have not bought their dwellings and who still benefit from a permanent right to use the dwellings and regulated rents which are usually extremely low.

How does it work ?

Social housing is provided only by municipalities. Until the end of 2010 there was a legal opportunity to access public funding for social housing provision by non-profit organisations, created and controlled by the municipality, but this option was never really implemented (with one exception) and it is not contemplated in the new legislation. Paradoxically, ‘new’ social housing rents are higher than ‘old’ regulated rents which are still applied in part of the municipal stock.

The main criterion for the access to housing is determined by the income level of the households. Limits to floor area of the dwellings also apply. Socially vulnerable groups can be given priority in the lists of applicants (handicapped, single parents with small children, deinstitutionalized patients, mentally handicapped and homeless). The final decision on the actual allocation rests with the municipality. In the case of municipal stock let to tenants of former state owned housing, no specific criteria are applied.

Source : CECODHAS Report 2012 (4)

State fund for promoting housing

The main state instrument for support of housing is the State Fund for Promoting Housing (the activities of this Fund are regulated by Act Nr. 607/2003 and later amendments) that can provide low interest loans to private applicants for purchasing of a flat/house or for specified re-adjustment of existing housing units.

The State Fund for Promoting Housing provides also financial loans for social housing (the municipality which is interested to build social flats can get a non refundable subsidy of 20% of the costs, the rest of the necessary financial resources can be provided by the Fund in a form of a low interest credit). The complete competences concerning social housing are in the hands of the municipalities (however, most of the municipalities are reluctant to build social flats – or they are willing to do it in a limited amount – since they have to pay the costs for social housing from the municipal budget). Source : FEANTSA, 2012 (2)

ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS

Bibliography & Sitography

  1. Social housing in Slovakia, The task and justness of the non-profit housing organisations, Cervenov Ľubomíra, International Journal of Strategic Property Management, 2005
  2. CECODHAS report on Social Housing
  3. Colliers Slovakia, Research and Forecast Report 2012
  4. State Housing Policy Concept to 2015, the Slovak Government Resolution No. 96 of 3 February 2010
  5. 2011 Population and Housing Census results, Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic
  6. Kratschmann A., Austrian Modules of Housing, Prague, 2005
  7. United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (2002). Country Profile Slovakia : Implementation of Agenda 21, the review of progress made since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. New York. UNCSD
  8. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (1999). Housing Country Profile: Slovakia. Geneva, UNECE.
  9. Nadejda Komendantova, Refurbishment of Multi-Storey Panel Block Residential Buildings in the Region of Banska Bystrica, Austrian Energy Agency, 2006
  10. Mapovanie sociálneho bývania v mestách Slovenska, Suchalova, Katarína Staroňová, Ústav verejnej politiky a ekonómie, FSEV UK Bratislava, 2010

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Major Problems

HOUSING SHORTAGE

It is clearly proved that Slovakia suffers from a growing shortage of housing. The housing shortage was estimated to amount to 180,000 dwellings in 1993 and about 250,000 dwellings in 2005. The most acute deficit is in regions with strong migration such as Bratislava where presently 9.1% of all economically active population lives.

Deficiencies in supply-demand mechanism are caused by growing demand for housing from one side and by insufficient supply caused by a decrease of new construction after fell of communism (more than 33,000 dwellings completed in 1989 compared to approximately 15,000 in 2012) and a need for refurbishment from another side. The second factor is a shortage of housing for definite groups of population mainly for middle- and low-income families. In the previous decades housing prices grew faster than income resulting in the shortage of housing especially in urban areas and in the low purchase power parity of the population. In year 2004 almost 20% of all household incomes in Slovakia was spent on housing, in case of low-income families the figure routinely exceeds 50%.

The state is tackling the shortage of housing through interventions stimulating demand (housing construction), as well as on the consumption (housing allowance paid as a part of material benefit allowances) (see more below).

ABSENCE OF SOCIAL HOUSING CONCEPT

Even though the term is legislatively defined, a proper concept of a social housing is missing in the present state housing policy. The current policy is missing characteristics of this type of housing, ways of its financing combining various resources, form of connection to existing social services and clear definition of target group in state policies.

In the Slovak Republic, two types of housing stock can be considered as social housing : new social flats constructed using a state subsidy under the ownership of municipalities, earmarked for social needs and occupied according to defined criteria (according to a scheme that has been in place for 13 years now), and a small part of the existing public stock owned by municipalities, which, however, represents only 3% of the whole stock. Living in municipal flats is timely limited (3 years in maximum in most cases) and restricted only to those concerned fulfilling tight income criteria.

Further, the housing for very narrowly specified socially endangered or excluded groups of population is ensured in the form of social service facilities. Among such facilities are old people´ s homes, social service homes, shelters, etc. The social service facilities, however, do not primarily serve to provide the housing as their priority is to provide social services. This disconnect is considered a serious gap between state policies, one administered by the Ministry of Transport Construction and Regional Development (housing subsidies, construction and reconstruction of public rental housing stock) and housing provided as a part of a social service (old people’s homes, homeless shelters, accommodation for abused women, etc.) administered by the Ministry of Labour, Social affairs and Family.

ROMA SETTLEMENTS AND HOMELESS

Altogether approximately 150,000 Roma in Slovakia live in separated and segregated settlements, more than 60,000 of them are children and half of them are under six years old. The Roma settlements count in average 17,000 housing units with an average of almost nine people per dwelling, while at least half of dwellings is an illegal construction built on foreign land. Many settlements lack basic infrastructure, there is no running water or legal electricity and the water in wells is often contaminated because the settlements lack an adequate sewage system. The unemployment rate reaches in some of settlements almost 90% of population and communities face complete social exclusion. The number of settlements continues to grow rapidly: in 1988 there were 278 settlements, in 1997 – 516, in 1998 – 591 and in 2000 – 616. The Slovak government tries to respond to catastrophic situation in housing through financial support of municipalities aimed at the construction of rental housing (basic standard type of houses), however, population growth in communities by far exceeds outputs of the programme.

Further, there are approximately 30,000 homeless living in towns of Slovakia. All conceptual social programs aimed at elimination of this type of extreme social exclusion are run by non-governmental sector and allowances for housing are only available to those in material need who have legal housing. Certain types of social services (shelters) funded by the state and municipalities are the only response of public authorities to the problem.

PREFABRICATED RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS

The housing capacity in Slovakia is covered by almost 90% through typified buildings, constructed using mostly the panel technologies constructed in the period from 1950 to 1951. Presently from 1,665 million totally available dwellings, 51% are in prefab residential buildings.

Even though nowadays prefab residential buildings do not enjoy popular image their construction was very important for the development of the country during extensive industrialization period after WWII. The need for working force at industrial enterprises in the cities caused massive migration of rural population which resulted in the shelter crisis and an urgent need for housing. The main goal of socialist government of that time became to provide housing to everyone who needed it and the quantity was by far more important than the quality. The prefab technologies allowed the fast expansion of the housing stock (construction peaked during 70-ies and 80-ies with almost 50,000 units completed annually) and equable development of urban settlements throughout the whole territory of Slovakia.

Fast industrialization process during the communist era caused present high quantity of prefab residential buildings in Slovakia. The political decision to use reinforced prefabricated technologies, however, resulted in an urgent need for housing refurbishment today. The accompanying problem is also neglected maintenance of these houses, which massively started from the period of 90-ies. The neglected maintenance during this period and low construction standards resulted in a present bad condition of the bigger part of prefab residential buildings.

Subsidies for elimination of systemic failures are designed to eliminate damage to prefab residential buildings which was not caused by neglected maintenance and repairs, but which occurred due to the inappropriate design, use of materials and inappropriate construction technology, or the violation of proposed construction process.

Major Claims

Civil Society Actors

  • DEPAUL SLOVENSKO = a part of Depaul International, a group of charities working to support homeless and marginalised people around the world, is a non-profit organisation which aims to address the needs of homeless people in Bratislava. It operates a low threshold night shelter, day centre facilities for the elderly and sick and a residential shelter for the long term sick and vulnerable. Website DEPAULemail.
  • HABITAT FOR HUMANITY SLOVAKIA = humanitarian non-profit association whose goal is to eradicate poverty in terms of habitat and homelessness. To do this, they build and renovate housing worldwide , offer packages of micro- credit and loans, help to clean up homes, advocate for affordable housing for all. Their action in Slovakia is mainly the Roma population particularly affected by poor housing conditions. Micro-credit and financial education as part of their action through partnership with local associations. Internet connectionemail.
  • PROTI PRÚDU (“Against Stream”) = an NGO focusing on work with homeless in streets of Slovak towns. It predominantly issues street journal “Nota Bene” which provides stable income for hundreds of its homeless vendors. Website
  • ETP SLOVAKIA = Centre for sustainable development is a non-profit organization providing qualified social services in community centres located directly in marginalised communities. A wide range of services based on holistic approach includes low-threshold social services, early childhood development programmes, health educations and prevention trainings, financial literacy and inclusion, employment and employability trainings, as well as housing interventions based on self-construction of family houses (see more above) Website
  • ČLOVEK V TÍSNI SLOVENSKO (“People in need Slovakia”) = a branch of Czech non-profit organization that implements humanitarian relief and long term development projects, educational programs, and human rights programs in 18 countries all over the world. In 2004 PIN began to work in Roma settlements in the Slovak Republic. The organization seeks to resolve problems arising from extreme poverty, low levels of education and unemployment being engaged also in housing program focusing on self-construction of houses by Roma. Website
  • PRÁVO NA BÝVANIE (“Right to Housing”) = a civil association dealing with issues related with rental housing in resituated dwellings and de-regulation of rent therein. On Facebook

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