Adequate, safe and affordable housing for all
It is necessary to enable and guarantee to everyone a life in a safe and affordable home that meets spatial, technical, hygienic and other needs and enables the exercise of other guaranteed rights.
A growing number of citizens are forced into homelessness or live in inadequate and unsafe housing – from living in informal settlements, through student housing, subtenant status, to bank loans to acquire the ownership over an apartment. We believe that it is an issue of social responsibility, that everyone has the opportunity to exercise the internationally recognized right to adequate, safe and affordable housing:
Adequate housing means access to electricity, clean drinking water, sewage or other similar solution, natural ventilation and adequate lighting, protection from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health, structural hazards, and disease vectors. In addition, adequate housing conditions refer to the size and position of residential space, i.e. the proximity of public services that are necessary for everyday life – kindergarten/school, shop, health centre, public transport, landscaped green area.
Safe housing means that there is legal security of tenure and that there is no possibility of losing the only residential space, regardless of other living circumstances.
Affordable housing refers to the matching of housing costs to the income of an individual or household, which, including rent and utility costs, should not exceed 40% of total income.
Public policies and public budget according to the housing needs of the beneficiaries, and not according to the interests of the investors of residential space
There has to be a state intervention in the housing sector and it has to be aimed at meeting the needs of all.
Investing in fairer housing policies and practice is a social investment, not a cost. Changes in regulations and tax policy have been implemented to reduce the investors’ expenditure in profitable housing construction, while the few publicly funded subsidized housing construction projects are targeted, extremely discriminately and unjustifiably, at certain groups of citizens (such as members of the military or police). There is a complete lack of consideration of priority criteria that would provide publicly subsidized housing units to all who live in inadequate housing conditions. In order to ensure equal exercise of the right to adequate, safe and affordable housing in the long run, the state should transform its land policies, tax policies, as well as housing support programmes, towards supporting non-profit housing construction and all those who do not have access thereto.
The state must have a clear long-term plan to realize this support, which should be achieved through differently distributed public budget funds. Also, in conditions in which these funds are not sufficient, the state is obliged to specifically request international assistance and cooperation, especially economic and technical, in order to implement the planned measures and mechanisms.
Housing is a reflection of the needs of people, and not the needs of the market
It is necessary to reduce the impact of the market on the housing sector, which is a structural precondition for providing adequate, safe and affordable housing for all. This can be done through an increase of public and cooperative ownership of housing and by supporting various non-profit mechanisms of construction and housing.
The share of private property in the housing sector of about 98%, as a result of mass privatization of the housing fund and legal promotion of private property in general and private ownership over the apartment led to a situation where a huge number of people do not have a roof over their heads or cannot afford adequate housing for themselves and/or their family. Housing support of the state and local self-government for the most vulnerable is often missing, while most of those who can afford adequate housing rent at increasingly unaffordable market prices, and some buy through many hard-to-reach and unsustainable loans or inherit at best. As the real estate market has globally become one of the key means of accumulation and movement of capital, the rapid growth of housing prices does not follow the growth of income but exceeds it many times over.
This imposes a great burden in relation to housing costs on a growing number of households. Reducing the impact of the market on solving housing needs must therefore be done through a set of measures related to different types of solutions aimed at solving the housing problem – long-term renting, housing support programmes, establishment of a public housing fund, but also at all those processes that affect them (preventing further growth of the short-term rental market and promotion of private ownership over apartments as lucrative investments, etc.)
Different housing support programmes for different needs
In order to ensure universal access to affordable housing, it is necessary to identify different housing needs and diversify solutions therefore.
The determination of housing needs must be adapted to different social forms of vulnerability, and to families which, in relation to household income, have different accesses to housing solutions and housing support programmes. In this way, the problem of all those who do not have a roof over their head or have difficulty meeting their housing needs in Serbia, which makes up about 70% of the population, is approached with tailored measures varying in scope, structure, and nature of intervention – from providing free housing, through subsidized rent or a limitation of the amount of the rent, to subsidizing the purchase of land for independent construction of non-profit housing.
Strong institutions and infrastructure for the implementation of housing policies
Establishment and continuous improvement of infrastructure for the implementation and enforcement of housing policies is a necessary condition for ensuring the right to adequate, safe and affordable housing for all.
In order to establish, in line with available resources, an effective plan for improving housing conditions and access to adequate, safe and affordable housing for all, it is necessary to establish a system of specialized non-profit institutions (within the public, cooperative and civil sector) that would be focused on the development of housing policy, coordination of its implementation and respective monitoring. By regulating the work of this institutional infrastructure, transparency and participation of all processes would be guaranteed. In addition, it is necessary to ensure the continuous production and monitoring of statistics directly related to this area, which must also be sensitive to different demographic characteristics (gender, ethnic origin, disability and disease, age, income, etc.) in order to devise more adequately and efficiently policies that respond to the de facto situation in the field of housing.
In addition to statistics, as an important input for the development of housing policies and their measures, it is extremely important to pay attention to the provision of better and more comprehensive information to society in a transparent and accessible manner about individual and collective rights and opportunities in the field of housing.