Gergely Karácsony
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony – Photo: MTI / Zsolt Szigetváry

Karacsony promises to prevent sell-off of council flats at ‘fraction of real value’

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony vowed on Thursday to team up with opposition district mayors to prevent a sell-off of council flats "at the fraction of their real value". Karacsony said on Facebook that a bill submitted to parliament by the ruling parties on Wednesday would enable current tenants of council properties to buy them at a fraction of their real value.

He said the advantage that the amendment would give to a few thousand tenants was acceptable, but “the real winners would be tricksters, Fidesz cronies and the flat mafia.”

“At the same time, the entire country would lose out; people who were not lucky enough to get council-owned property and who had to use half of their life’s income to be able to buy proper abode,” Karacsony said.

Karacsony also warned of investors buying council-owned flats via deals with old-age pensioners occupying them.

“And, in the end, the council won’t be able to help because there won’t be any council-owned flats left,” he added.

“Together with opposition mayors we will take all legally available measures to prevent this,” Karacsony said. “If needs be, we’ll even go the Constitutional Court.”

Fidesz lawmaker Laszlo Borocz, who initiated the proposal, said in response that the amendment aimed to enable tens of thousands of Hungarian families and tenants to acquire a home.

“Most Hungarians only feel completely safe if they can live in a home they own,” he added. Borocz denied claims that this would put an end to council-managed properties. Out of hundreds of thousands of council-owned flats, around 20,000 are empty and additional properties can also be acquired by the councils to manage, he added. He said the proposal laid bare the false accusations that the government was trying to bleed local councils dry as the councils would now generate significant income by selling the properties, he said.

He also said the proposal aimed to resolve an unfair situation: tenants in listed Buda Castle council properties were not given the chance to buy the homes they occupied in 1994-1995 when the majority of councils’ properties throughout the country were offered to tenants. If the proposal is approved, every tenant will be given an opportunity to buy the home they rent from the council, and low-income tenants will be given a chance to pay over 25 years in interest-free instalments, he added.

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