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Civil organisations call on government to withdraw proposal on sale of council-owned rental flats

Professional organisations have called for the withdrawal of draft legislation on the mandatory sale of local council-owned rental apartments, originally maintained by councils to help vulnerable citizens.

At a joint press conference in front of Parliament on Wednesday, representatives of 32 organisations said the proposal would harm a basic right enshrined in the constitution and made social housing policy impossible.

Zsolt Szegfalvi, the leader of Habitat for Humanity Hungary, said the proposal would be the final blow to an already struggling rental flat system and social housing policy. Also, it lacked any professional background, he said.

Vera Kovacs, a co-leader of Utcarol Lakasba, an NGO working to provide housing for homeless citizens, said social mobility would all but disappear if rental housing was eliminated. Young people wanting to find work in the city would be unable to move there unless they had property in the family, which would exclude those coming from state care, among others, she said.

Marton Gede of the Varos Mindenkie group noted that selling council-owned rental apartments would deprive homeless people from the hope of moving to “normal housing” from crowded shelters.

Andras Piko, the mayor of Budapest’s 8th district, said the proposal “isn’t simply stupid, it’s sinful”. It would expose vulnerable citizens to fraudsters, as many would need to turn to loan sharks to buy their flats, he said.

Piko noted an amendment proposal that would restrict the legislation to historical buildings. “While that would be a huge political success, the law would remain tantamount to robbery,” he said, and called on the government to withdraw the proposal entirely.

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