Towards housing equality

These are goals and measures that we consider necessary for provision of adequate, safe and affordable housing for all in Serbia. Housing policy must be harmonized at the national and local levels and all segments of the public administration system must be included in providing a roof over everyone’s head and improving housing conditions for those who have a home, which is a political goal and a necessary precondition for exercising other social and economic rights.

Resolve urgent housing vulnerability situations and eliminate homelessness in the long run

  • Improve housing conditions in informal settlements, so that they meet the standards of adequate housing, through cooperation with their residents.
  • It is necessary to provide adequate alternative housing for residents of informal settlements that cannot be kept in the existing locations, with mandatory consultations with them and in accordance with the Law on Housing and Building Maintenance.
  • Prohibit forced evictions without first providing an adequate alternative accommodation.
  • Provide housing solutions for the homeless, as well as programmes of empowerment and support for a sustainable exit from homelessness, following the example of other programmes that place housing at the centre of the response to the homelessness situation.
  • In situations in which the persons in situation of homelessness and other categories of the population who are not able to provide themselves with adequate housing, formulate and implement programmes that, in addition to housing, deal with the exercise of other rights, primarily the right to work and employment, education, health and social protection.
  • Ensure the integration of refugees from the former Yugoslavia and displaced persons living in inadequate accommodation, through the formulation of new housing support programmes and the improvement of the existing programmes. Provide adequate accommodation to all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have come to the territory of Serbia, regardless of whether they temporarily reside or are in the process of seeking asylum.

Reduce the dominant role of the market in addressing the housing needs in the long run

  • Reduce the absolute dominance of private ownership over housing units through strategic and systemic increase of the housing fund in public and cooperative ownership.
  • Regulate the market of long-term lease of privately owned housing units (in such a way that the cost of legalizing that relationship does not fall on the tenant).
  • Establish control over the prices and quality of short-term rental of privately owned housing in the city.
  • Promote other forms of tenancy status that do not necessarily imply ownership over the housing unit. Raise awareness that rental housing is an equally adequate type of housing and that it has advantages for certain life situations.

Improve knowledge and awareness on housing exclusion and housing needs, which is the basis for adequate housing policy

  • Map the forms of housing exclusion in the city, as well as the needs for affordable housing, and collect all relevant data in this regard.
  • Ensure constant updating of data that would be useful for the creation of future housing policies, their monitoring and evaluation.
  • Systematize all information relevant to the area of ​​housing support and non-profit housing from various sources and instances of jurisdiction.
  • Develop mechanisms for transparent provision of information and public participation within the process of planning and implementation of the housing strategy, as well as monitoring of its results and improving housing related policies.
  • Perform analyses of various applied models of affordable housing (which include social and non-profit housing) in Serbia and models that have been applied in other countries, and which can be applied in a customized form in the domestic context.

Develop various programmes that provide access to adequate, safe and affordable housing for all

  • Expand and develop in more detail the housing support programmes defined by the Law on Housing and Building Maintenance (2016), so that they include various forms of subsidizing of the improvement of housing conditions and the acquisition of housing (including debt write-offs, land ceding, etc.), tailored to different needs and situations.
  • Enable the development of alternative housing solutions by supporting non-profit and non-speculative housing construction.
  • Amend the relevant legal framework to support different models of non-profit housing construction, such as cooperative housing construction.
  • Provide financial resources for the development and diversification of housing support from various sources (public budget of the city, funds from EU pre-accession funds, other donations).

Increase the scope and improve the management and maintenance of the publicly owned housing fund

  • Establish a precise list of all publicly owned apartments, as well as criteria and ways of their current use (here also include apartments in the social housing programme and apartments for non-profit rent and other housing support programmes).
  • Also include in the list publicly owned facilities that need to be reconstructed in order to be used for housing purposes (these do not have to be only residential facilities, but also other types of facilities that can (relatively easily) be repurposed for housing).
  • Develop a programme for financing public housing projects through various sources (lending, EU pre-accession funds, city budget, etc.).
  • Provide publicly owned land that will be ceded (but not sold) for the construction of non-profit apartments (so that the location provides access to public services and proximity to other residential facilities, in accordance with the principles of the right to adequate housing) and make a register of these locations.
  • Increase the publicly owned housing fund for non-profit housing, through the construction of public apartments and the purchase/rental of privately owned apartments.
  • Preserve the scope and ensure the maintenance of the existing publicly owned housing fund (without the possibility of purchasing publicly owned apartments intended for rent).
  • Ensure sustainable, non-profit and transparent and democratic management of the existing publicly owned apartments, through the active participation of the beneficiaries of apartments in the decision-making process.
  • Determine a complex system of criteria for assigning the use of publicly owned apartments to different groups of beneficiaries (diversification of beneficiaries of public apartments).
  • Inform beneficiaries of publicly owned apartments about their rights and obligations, raise their capacity to live in the community.

Activate unused privately owned housing fund

  • Establish a register of unused empty housing units and privately owned residential facilities, as well as housing or other facilities whose construction has been suspended at some stage. This does not refer to the home (a housing unit in which the owner lives), but to the second, third, etc. housing units whose lease has not been regulated.
  • Establish mechanisms for additional taxation of the owners of empty housing units (2 years after construction) and thus stimulate their use, primarily for housing purposes (here it is also important to pay attention to the practice of renting residential facilities as business premises).
  • Create a mechanism that enables (temporary) use of space for housing needs, which has been the subject of ownership disputes for a long time, as well as facilities whose construction has been interrupted at some stage.
  • Develop housing fund disposal programmes owned by commercial banks or other owners, which has not been used, for the needs of temporary housing solutions.
  • Ensure the right of first refusal for the city/municipality in situations of auction sale of confiscated apartments or apartments that have been vacated by the execution of the eviction measure.

Establish a system of coordination and monitoring of the implementation of housing policy

  • Establish a coordination body that is responsible for conducting research and analysis for the needs of housing policies; ensure that the creation, implementation and monitoring of the housing policy is conducted in a participatory manner; and establish coordination of all relevant instances in the implementation of housing policy at the city level.
  • Establish non-profit housing agencies which, in cooperation with the coordination body at the city level, will have special competencies in the areas of non-profit housing and housing support (public housing fund, cooperative housing, social housing in protected conditions, etc.).
  • Provide funding from the public budget and other funds for the continuous operation of the city-level coordination body and the network of non-profit housing agencies.
  • Ensure that the funding and operation of these agencies are transparent and participatory.

Ensure participatory, integrated and sustainable planning and management within the housing sector

  • Enable an active participation of housing support beneficiaries in designing, implementing and controlling housing solutions.
  • Open a wider dialogue with the interested public in local communities regarding the further development of housing and housing policy.
  • Raise citizens’ awareness of the importance of participation of all beneficiaries of housing services in the design, implementation and control of housing policy in order to provide adequate, safe and affordable housing for all.

//// This proposal has been made as a reaction to the preparation of a strategic document for the development of housing policies of the City of Belgrade in the next ten years. Its earlier version was sent in 2019 to the Secretariat for Legal and Property Affairs of the City of Belgrade and the team responsible for drafting the City of Belgrade Housing Strategy. ////