Country Listing

Yugoslavia Table of Contents



Obtaining adequate housing was a major problem in all Yugoslav cities, especially for rural migrants. For years, single male migrants resorted to dormitory-style accommodations that many enterprises maintained for their workers. Migrants from urban areas fared better in finding housing in cities because of their greater experience with urban life and generally higher education or professional level. The quality of migrant housing usually improved with length of residence, and acquisition of satisfactory housing became a mark of a migrant's success in a new location.

Although Yugoslavia had a total of 6.7 million housing units in 1984, housing remained in short supply in every urban area, and cost began to increase dramatically in the 1970s. In 1987 the price of a housing unit with sixty square meters of floor space equalled about twenty average annual incomes. While the urban population grew in the 1970s, housing construction in Yugoslavia's cities actually dropped. Urban centers received 10,000 fewer new housing units in 1978 than in 1975, a decline that was sharpest in the six largest cities. In Slovenia, this fall resulted in part from the republic's effort to promote the simultaneous growth of several urban centers. In Yugoslavia's other republics, however, the drop reflected shortages of building materials, rising construction costs, and administrative problems in the self-managed housing system.

Yugoslavia's housing system offered two methods of obtaining long-term accommodations: through private initiative, using bank, enterprise, or private loans; or through allocation of socially owned apartments. A person's chances of receiving housing loans or a socially owned apartment generally were proportional to his or her social standing.

About two-thirds of Yugoslavia's housing units were privately owned, and about 80 percent of housing construction was done by private enterprise. In nearly all cases, private housing construction was a long-term, pay-as-you-go ordeal involving contribution of significant labor by the homeowner. The outskirts of all Yugoslav cities featured rows of occupied and unoccupied homes at various stages of completion. Private housing consisted mostly of village houses, private apartments, and homes built on the periphery of major cities.

Socially owned apartments were allocated by the state without investment by the occupant; rent and maintenance payments were nominal. Although apartments were technically social property, occupants had de facto property rights. Enterprises deducted funds for social apartments from the general employee payroll; thus, all employees paid for socially owned housing, whatever type of housing they occupied. Apartment allocation was based on a complex set of criteria, including family size, work seniority, age, and position. The wait for a socially owned apartment could last decades, and bitter disputes arose among candidates for a long-sought apartment.

Graft was endemic in the Yugoslav housing system. Partly for this reason, workers had the least chance of obtaining socially owned housing, while professionals and members of the bureaucracy had the greatest. Reform plans for the early 1990s called for occupants of socially owned apartments to begin buying them outright by adding a monthly principal payment to their maintenance fees, but in 1990 reforms awaited a government decision on redefinition and distribution of social property.

Data as of December 1990