Hungary Table of Contents
Private home in Mezokovesd
Courtesy Sam and Sarah Stulberg
For many years, the housing conditions in Hungary were only a peripheral concern of the communist regime. The housing that existed after World War II had many shortcomings. Most prewar apartments had only one room and a kitchen area, and these facilities, already overcrowded and expensive, had been heavily damaged during the war. In 1949 the country had 265 inhabitants for every 100 rooms. After 1949 the government confiscated existing housing and redistributed it. The government chose not to invest heavily in housing, although many buildings were reconstructed. The new regime affirmed the right of all inhabitants to decent housing, prohibited evictions, and regulated rents, but these measures did not accelerate construction. During the early years of communist rule, economic planning gave priority to the building of new plants and other industrial installations rather than to new housing. Thus, construction of housing did not keep pace with urban industrial expansion, which had attracted large numbers of workers from the villages into the cities. Not until the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) did the housing problem receive serious, sustained attention. Progress then became more rapid, and the government experimented with various approaches to the problem. Because of budget constraints, the government abandoned its goal of providing low-rent apartments for all citizens. Instead, it urged people to invest in their own housing and made available lowinterest loans for the construction of cooperative apartment buildings and private homes. This policy spurred construction and helped to reduce the overall housing shortage. However, most new housing units were built for the higher-income groups. Families with lower incomes continued to rely on state-financed or industry-financed low-rent housing, which usually had long waiting lists of prospective tenants.
In the 1980s, housing remained a major concern for families at all status and income levels. As the government's direct role in providing housing diminished, many families tried to use any surplus income they had to acquire modern, spacious, wellequipped dwellings. For private individuals wishing to build dwellings, the most important resources were family and friends (for labor) and loans (usually sponsored by the government at 3 percent interest for up to 70 percent of the total construction cost and repayable over a maximum of thirty-five years). As of 1983, only about 22.3 percent of the country's dwellings were state owned, down from 33.9 percent in the first half of the 1970s. The remaining units were privately owned. In 1986 approximately 69,430 dwellings were constructed, 7,620 by the state and 61,800 by private individuals (the vast majority of whom received some state funding). However, despite significant gains, housing was still not sufficient for the country's needs.
Data as of September 1989