CAHROM (2014)4

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CAHROM (2014)4


Strasbourg, 5 October 2014









(further to the CAHROM thematic visit to Belgrade, Serbia, from 18 to 20 November 2013)





Experts from SERBIA, requesting country


Mr Dragoljub Acković, Deputy Director, Office of Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia

Mr Bajram Saitović, Head of the Group for the improvement of the Roma position, Office for Human and Minority Rights

Ms Slavica Vasić, Group for the improvement of the Roma position, Office for Human and Minority Rights

Ms Aleksandra Krstić, Deputy Secretary at Belgrade City Department of the Social Protection

Experts from the SLOVAK REPUBLIC and SPAIN, partner countries


Slovak Republic: Ms Monika Mátyásová, Head of Unit for Methodology, Monitoring and Evaluation of Horizontal Priorities of Marginalised Roma Communities, Plenipotentiary Office of Slovak Government for Roma Communities under the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic.


Spain:Ms Inés Cedrón, Manager Programme. International Department of Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), Spanish NGO for Roma issues.








1.1Context of the thematic report and visitpage 3

1.2Composition of the thematic grouppage 3

1.3Programme of the thematic visitpage 4

1.4Terminologypage 4

1.4.1 Adequate housingpage 4

1.4.2 Forced evictionspage 4

1.43 Security of tenurepage 4

1.5Size, composition and housing situation of Romapage 6

1.5.1 Serbiapage 6

1.5.2 Slovak Republicpage 7

1.5.3 Spainpage 10








3.1Serbiapage 14

3.2Slovak Republicpage 17

3.3 Spainpage 20





4.1Conclusions as regards the organisation of the thematic visitpage 24

4.2Lessons learnt by the experts

4.2.1 Lessons learnt as regards the situation and policy in Serbiapage 25

4.2.2 Lessons learnt as regards the situation and policy in Slovakiapage 27

4.2.3 Lessons learnt as regards the situation and policy in Spainpage 28

4.3Good practices identifiedpage 30




Appendix 1: Official invitation letterpage 31

Appendix 2: List of experts and participants in the thematic visitpage 31

Appendix 3: Programme of the CAHROM thematic visit in Belgradepage 31

Appendix 4: Comparative summary of places visited during the field visitpage 32



ADDENDUM:National, European and international standards and reference texts











1.1 Context of the thematic report and visit


The thematic group on (re-)housing solutions for Roma and alternative measures to (forced) evictions was set up at the request of the Serbian member of CAHROM, following Serbian’s confirmation of its willingness to be a requesting country at the 5th CAHROM meeting (Strasbourg, 14-16 May 2013)[2]. During that meeting, representatives from Greece[3], the Slovak Republic and Spain confirmed their interest to join this thematic group.


An official invitation from the Serbian authorities was received for the CAHROM’s group of experts to visit Belgrade on 18-20 November 2013 on 4 November 2013 (see Appendix 1).


The proposal from Serbian authorities to be a requesting country and host a CAHROM thematic visit of partner countries’ experts was much welcome and timely as the housing situation of Roma is a topical issue in Serbia. This country has had so far bad records in terms of lack of legalisation of Roma informal settlements, delays in finding long-term housing solutions for displaced Roma (in particular those from Kosovo*[4]), and forced evictions of Roma from different municipalities, including from certain districts of Belgrade[5].


The setting up of such a thematic group was a response to the recent policy and legal developments engaged by the Serbian authorities to resolve the housing situation of Roma in Serbia. Some of these measures had been the subject of concerns and critics expressed by various international organisations and various local and international NGOs (see Addendum to this report).



1.2 Composition of the thematic group of experts


The Serbian authorities appointed the Deputy Director of the Office of Human and Minority Rights of the Government of the Republic of Serbia (CAHROM member) and the Head of the Group for the improvement of the Roma position at the Office for Human and Minority Rights as experts of this thematic group. Representatives from the City of Belgrade also participated in the discussion and the debriefing meeting.


The Slovak Republic and Spain, acting as partner countries for this thematic group, nominated the following experts respectively:


The list of the experts participating in the thematic group can be found in Appendix 2.


1.3 Programme of the thematic visit


The agenda included on the first day meetings with state officials, various institutions and civil society representatives (about 30 participants attended the first day meeting). The agenda followed the guidelines developed by the CAHROM and allowed the possibility for partner countries to introduce their experience and exchange views with local interlocutors.


The main issues addressed during the discussion are the following:

  1. Concrete measures to improve the availability, affordability and quality of housing for Roma with access to affordable services;
  2. (Re)-housing programmes for Roma: criteria, required documents, interventions in the legislative field and/or initiatives that could ensure a sustainable development of this process;
  3. Mapping of illegal settlements;
  4. Legal measures adopted to promote the legalisation of informal Roma settlements;
  5. Successful practices of re-housing projects;
  6. Evictions: conditions and legal guarantee of alternative accommodation for people affected by evictions;
  7. Possible role of (Roma) mediators in addressing housing situation of Roma;
  8. Steps undertaken under the respective Roma Decade Action Plans on housing and the National Roma Inclusion Strategies to broaden the scope of housing interventions, urban planning and rural development and making them part of a comprehensive cross-sectorial approach[6].


A field visit to five informal Roma settlements was organised during the second day of the visit followed by a meeting with international partners present in Serbia (OSCE and Council of Europe Offices, OSF). The morning of the third day was taken up by a debriefing meeting between the experts of the thematic group. The detailed programme of the thematic visit is reproduced in Appendix 3 to this report.


The thematic visit received media attention. The Deputy Director of the Office of Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia responded to several interviews about the purpose of the CAHROM thematic visit and the housing situation of Roma in Serbia (see the English translation in English in the Addendum to this report).


1.4 Terminology


1.4.1 Adequate housing


The definition provided for by the United Nations Habitat Agenda for “adequate housing”, paragraph 60, should be borne in mind in the context of the present report: “Adequate shelter means more than a roof over one's head. It also means adequate privacy; adequate space; physical accessibility; adequate security; security of tenure; structural stability and durability; adequate lighting, heating and ventilation; adequate basic infrastructure, such as water-supply, sanitation and waste-management facilities; suitable environmental quality and health-related factors; and adequate and accessible location with regard to work and basic facilities: all of which should be available at an affordable cost”.


Various international instruments recognise the right of everyone to adequate housing as one of the basic human rights (see Chapter III below).


1.4.2 Forced eviction


A forced eviction is the removal of people against their will, from the homes or land they occupy, without legal protections and other safeguards. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that instances of forced eviction are incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant, emphasizing that a state “must refrain from force evictions and ensure that the law is enforced against its agents or third parties who carry out forced evictions”.[7]


According to international standards, “[the] practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing.”[8]


1.4.3 Security of tenure


Security of tenure is a crucial element in determining adequacy of housing and Amnesty International has recalled for the preparation of this thematic visit that “Legal security of tenure takes various forms, including rental (public and private) accommodation, cooperative housing, lease, owner-occupation, emergency housing and informal settlements, including occupation of land or property. Notwithstanding the type of tenure, all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. States parties should consequently take immediate measures aimed at conferring legal security of tenure upon those persons and households currently lacking such protection, in genuine consultation with affected persons and groups.”


1.5 Status, size and housing situation of Roma


1.5.1 Serbia


Roma have the status of a national minority[9] and are covered by the framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities since 11 May 2001. Roma represent indeed one of the biggest nationalities living in the Republic of Serbia.


According to the official census, as of 2011, 147,604 inhabitants of Serbia self-declared as belonging to the Roma community (2.05 % of the total number of inhabitants)[10]. Civil society organisations and researchers working with Roma believe that the real number of Roma in Serbia is close to 600,000[11] (8.31% of the total population). This estimated figure is the one used by the Council of Europe and also by the Office of Human and Minority Rights of the Government of the Republic of Serbia[12].


Spatial layout, date of origin and legal status in 2002



According to 2002 survey results, 593 Roma settlements were registered in Serbia (more than 100 households) of which 34.6% was partly and 35.5% completely illegal, while 43% were slams (without electricity around 10%, with water supply in the apartment 47.1%, and sewerage system only 24.2%).[13]


During the thematic visit, it was indicated that the number of Roma settlements is in fact 750. Out of these 750 Roma settlements, 500 have sub-standard and unsanitary living conditions[14]. Not all of them are informal and unhygienic but information collected shows that two-third of the Roma population (400,000 people) live in completely inadequate settlements. According to the Office for Human and Minority Rights, there are six such settlements in Zemun, nine in Arandjelovac, twelve each in the municipalities of Palilula, Niš and Požarevac, 13 each in Čukarica and New Belgrade, 15 in Ub, 18 in Pirot, 22 in Lazarevac, 25 in Obrenovac…


It is estimated that around 70% of Roma population in Serbia live in Roma settlements, and only around 5% of Roma live in public social apartments (in the majority population that percentage is lower, it is 3% but they make much higher figure in the absolute amount). Having in mind the dimensions of poverty and social exclusion of Roma, that percentage is extremely low. Namely, while 14.7% of the entire population is faced with problems of poor housing, it is the case with 64.1% of Roma population. The Roma Position Improvement Strategy indicates that 39% of Roma households lack water supply, and 5% has no sanitary devices at all (up to 25% in slams).


According to Mr Osman Balić from Yurom Centar, present at the round table, during the time of socialism, only a small segment of employed Roma population in Serbia was included in official apartments providing (socially owned apartments), while most of Roma were forced to make the “outlet” strategies, that is, they were founding the way beyond the apartment provision system mentioned. So they were building their own apartments, both in already existing Roma settlements and the newly formed ones. It resulted in a big number of Roma settlements which are characterized by poor housing, low infrastructural facilities, and often, illegal building.


The problem of Roma settlements is the consequence of historical and socio-economic conditions in ex- Yugoslavia but also, of the last twenty years, in Serbia. This problem is not only the matter of law, planning or administration; it is also the consequence of discrimination in the area of urban planning. In Serbia, there are hundreds of Roma settlements (mahalas), which exist for more than 50 years. In order to prevent further destruction of these settlements, provide for the development of these settlements inhabitants, and have space to offer alternative accommodation for people who are still to be displaced, the speedy adoption and implementation of a law on legalisation of informal settlements is crucial.


The main characteristics of these settlements are as follows:



Problems of informal settlements are multidimensional and they are characterized by:



Some of the main problems when it comes to housing policy in general in Serbia include the lack of infrastructure development, the lack of land registration in the cadastre, the lack of affordability of resources, and the lack of social support measures.


1.5.2 Slovak Republic


The Roma community has the status of a national minority and is covered by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities since 14 September 1995.


In the most recent population and housing census in 2011, 105,738 people registered for the Roma nationality (2% of the total number of population). Compared with the previous population and housing census in 2001, it was about 15,818 Roma more and their share increased from 1.7% to 2.0%. This means that the Roma nationality, according to the census results, has become the third most numerous in the Slovak Republic after the Slovak and Hungarian nationalities, and has overtaken the Czech nationality. Romani as mother language was reported by 122,518 inhabitants in the 2011 census sheets, which was 2.3% of the total number of population. Romani as the most widely used language in the household was reported by 128,242 inhabitants, i.e. 2.4% of the total number of population.[15]


According to the estimations of the Council of Europe based on various researches and surveys, the total number of Roma in the Slovak Republic is closer to 460,000[16]. Based on the results of the 2013 Atlas of Roma communities, the Slovak expert referred to an estimate of 402,840 Roma (7.45% of the total population) living in 1,070 municipalities[17].


Differences between groups, particularly the Roma ethnic, acquire such dimensions that the designation of "Roma problem" or the euphemism "Roma issue" is often used in this context[18]. Such designation carries the negative connotation, often based on the media intensive image describing the Roma in very bad one-side light, which leads to a deepening of the barrier between the majority and the Roma minority.


Concerning the geographical coverage, the highest concentration of the Roma is in the Eastern part of the Slovak Republic, where more than 60% of their total number is concentrated. The largest share of the spatial distribution is in the Košice self-governing region (in which almost 31% of the total number of the Slovak Roma live) and the Prešov self-governing region (29.3%) followed by the Banská Bystrica self-governing region with 19.6%. The regions with less Roma population include the Trenčín self-governing region (1.28%), the Žilina self-governing region (1.45%) and the Bratislava self-governing region (1.95% of the total number of the Roma). See below a map extracted of the 2013 Atlas of Roma communities.


Noticeable trend is the growing share of the Roma living concentrated in the areas of the territories of municipalities and towns and in spatially separated settlements. While in 1988, only 14,988 inhabitants lived in these areas, in 2000 their number was estimated at 127,429[19] and at 190,950 in 2010.


C:\Documents and Settings\perina2713331\Desktop\Dokumenty -pracovné\September 2013\Atlas porovnania\Atlas 2013\Segregovane koncentracie.jpg

The highest number of these areas with Roma concentrations (settlements or other concentrations in the territory of municipalities) was in the districts of Nitra (50) and Prešov (49) followed by the districts of Trebišov (46), Michalovce (43), Košice-surrounding (42), Vranov nad Topľou (41), Rimavská Sobota (41), Dunajská Streda (40), Svidník (37), Bardejov (35), Spišská Nová Ves (33) and Rožňava (33). 10 districts have no occurrence of the area with Roma concentration. These are following, the district of Tvrdošín,Topoľčany, Ružomberok, Považská Bystrica, Piešťany, Námestovo, Hlohovec, Bytča, Bratislava V and Bratislava IV.


The distribution of the Roma living in settlements or concentrations is largely similar to their general spatial distribution. The highest share of the Roma living concentrated is in the district of Sabinov, (where they form 18.91% of the district’s population) and Spišská Nová Ves (18.49%). About 40% of the Roma population live in separated neighbourhoods around the cities as “ghettos”, without appropriated infrastructure neither health equipment conditions.


A huge drop in the living standard of Roma communities has been registered in the Slovak Republic in the last twenty years. In the aforementioned period, the Roma population has relocated from integrated town districts to town ghettos and rural settlements, mostly in the segregated regions.


According to the Slovak Government[20], housing is undoubtedly one of the areas in which the gap between Roma on the one hand and the majority population on the other hand is ever deepening. Despite the fact that the majority population encompasses disadvantaged groups in one way or another and commonly designated as “vulnerable”, whether due to their economic status or ethnicity, only Roma communities in the Slovak Republic establish various types of non-standard dwellings and settlements that fail to comply with either technical or hygienic standards. Such non-standard dwellings are more often than not built on land with uncertain land title, without a planning permission. Non-standard are also construction materials used, such as wood, tin, or clay. Another serious problem is the lack of basic infrastructure, such as electricity, access to drinking water, access to roads and sidewalks with public lighting, gas, and sewage. Another problem is waste removal and disposal.


According to the 2010 UNDP survey, up to 16 % of Roma segregated and separated households reside in shacks or dwellings not designed for housing. This has a negative impact on health, standard education and employment. The bad housing situation of many Roma families largely contributes to their marginalisation and stigmatisation by the rest of the society.


Type of settlement with marginalized Roma communities

Number (2004)

Number (2013)

Number of inhabitants (2004)

Number  of inhabitants (2013)

% of the total number

Integrated concentrations

(in the city)


246/ 584 cities

35 278

51 998


Separated settlements  (at the boundary of the city)


327/ 179 cities

76 649

95 971


Segregated settlements

(separated by natural or artificial barrier)


231/ 195 cities

53 572

68 540



Typology of legal  dwellings

Typology of illegal  dwellings

Residential houses

1 531

10 411 flats/ 4 936 ALS



Family houses, made of bricks, legal, registered in the land register

8 722


Family houses, made of bricks, illegal, not registered in the land register

/ in 244 localities

3 679

Family houses, made of bricks,  at the state of construction, before inspection





Wooden houses, legal, Drevenice, legal, registered in the land register



Wooden houses, not registered in the land register / in 49 localities





Dwellings of shacks type/ in 164 localities

4 134




Dwellings of cabins/in 101 localities





Caravans / in 33 localities





Dwellings in non-residential spaces/ in 16 localities





Other dwellings/ in 5 localities



11 435



8 876


In communities where Roma live as integrated or in concentrations, up to 90 percent of dwellings are legal. Non-standard types of dwellings are accumulated in Košice and Prešov regions; few of them are in the Western part of the Slovak Republic. The same applies to the legality of the dwelling: most of the illegal houses are to be found in Košice and Prešov regions.


1.5.3 Spain


The Constitution does not formally recognise or define ethnic minorities. Roma are therefore not recognised as a national minority. The Roma population (población gitana) is, nevertheless, from a pragmatic point of view covered by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities since 1 September 1995.


Spanish Roma (called gitanos, an accepted term) have been present in Spain since the 15th century. This is a heterogeneous population who mainly lives in urban or sub-urban area sand go through a process of strong internal changes. According to Council of Europe’s estimates, confirmed by the National strategy for social inclusion of Roma in Spain 2012-2020, the number of Roma in Spain is around 750,000 (1.63% of the total number of inhabitants). As in the rest of Europe, their history has been marked by persecution and phases of social exclusion. They speak Spanish (some of them also speak the Caló dialect).


In spite of the limitations in determining the total scale of the Roma population in Spain, it is accurately known that the Roma people are distributed across the national territory, with a most concentrated presence in Andalusia, where around 40% of Spanish Roma reside, as well as in Catalonia, Valencia and Madrid. Although their history has been associated with rural life and geographic mobility, the current trend is for prolonged, stable settlement in urban areas which consolidated in the 1950s, 60s and 70s to coincide with the general wave of domestic migration between rural areas and cities.


Recent studies compared with older studies reveal a significant improvement in the residential conditions of the Roma population in recent decades. Many Roma families have had access to a dwelling in many neighbourhoods in Spain. The access to a dwelling has occurred both through public and private housing.


The number of shacks and sub-standard housing has declined significantly over the last decades. In 1991, 31% of Roma families were living in sub-standard houses.  According to the latest  study covering the housing conditions of over 90,000 Roma households (2007 FSG Map on housing and Roma community), 88.1% of Roma live now in standard housing and only 3.9% live in shanty towns while another 7.8% live in precarious buildings. These results represent a significant improvement over those of the previous study from 1991 when 10% of Roma dwellings were living in slums and 21.4% in precarious buildings. The basic equipment of the houses has also been considerably improved over this period.


Despite progress in eradicating Roma slums/shantytowns/shacks, some problems remain among which the high level of occupancy of dwellings and problems of insecurity and deterioration of equipment both in their own homes and in urban environments. There is also a lack of basic equipment, humidity problems and a lack of urban facilities. The 2007 study shows that 19.5% of houses of Roma lack basic urban services or basic equipment. Many families continue to suffer the effects of exclusion: "special neighbourhoods" characterised by the persistence of shanty towns and relocation in badly-equipped neighbourhoods. Roma are still concentrated in certain disadvantaged neighbourhoods and municipalities. There is a certain deterioration of housing and environment (poor quality of social housing, overcrowding, inadequate facilities and infrastructure, poor maintenance, etc.) linked to the bad socio-economic context. Some Roma families face physical and social barriers in accessing nearby services. There is a lack of guarantees in gaining access to public housing and the free housing or rental market.


In the last decade in Spain many more houses than necessary have been constructed (considering the demand by new families). However, this fact has not been effective in solving the problem of accessing to a dwelling for an important number of families, including Roma families. More than 700,000 new houses were built in just a year, almost doubling the figure of new families and in spite of this excess in production the price of houses soared by 150% in a decade. The growth experienced by the construction sector has not been based in its sustainability.



The right to housing is a human right. All national and local governments and their representatives have a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfil this human right. “Home is more than a roof over [one’s] head” to quote both the title of a publication by Amnesty International[21] and the Spanish presentation during the thematic visit. It also entails suitable conditions and especially a habitat and a location providing access to work, education health-care and to all of the other services and resources available to citizens.


The experts of the thematic group wished to recall that:



The right to adequate housing, which includes the right to be protected from forced eviction, is guaranteed in several international and regional human rights treaties. These include Article 11(1), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); Article 17, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Article 27(4), Convention on the Rights of the Child; Article 5(e), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Article 14(2)(h) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the European Convention on Human Rights; and Article 16 of the Revised European Social Charter. State parties to these treaties have a legal obligation to guarantee the right to adequate housing.


In addition, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has emphasized that “the right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one’s head or which views shelter exclusively as a commodity. Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.”


In 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing issued the Basic principles and guidelines on development based evictions and displacement (Basic principles). The Basic Principles, based on international treaties and the General Comments of UN treaty bodies, aim to ensure that evictions are absolutely necessary, carried out lawfully, and protect the human rights of those evicted.


International organisations and institutions (UN agencies, World Bank, OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, Decade for Roma Inclusion[22], etc.) prioritise the implementation of integrated approaches on Roma housing to promote desegregation, and to facilitate access to public and social service infrastructures. They also recommend that quality social housing is made available and affordable for vulnerable groups, including Roma. As seen in previous CAHROM thematic reports related to Roma housing[23], this requires that criteria set up for allocating social housing are not biased to exclude Roma applicants by fixing too high or complicated criteria. 


Roma and housing issues such as the legalisation of Roma settlements and houses, as well as the inclusion of Roma beneficiaries in social housing policies, have been extensively addressed and documented by European and international governmental and non-governmental organisations through conventions, recommendations, case-law, reports and projects. Particularly relevant are reports covering the countries from the present thematic group from UNDP, World Bank, OSCE, from the Civil Society Monitoring of Roma National Strategies and Decade Action Plans[24].


At the level of the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma adopted at the High Level meeting on Roma on 20 October 2010 establishes “Housing” as a priority to be focused on, in order to reach an effective social inclusion of Roma community giving the main guidelines as: taking the appropriate measures to improve the living conditions of Roma, ensuring equal access to housing and accommodation services for Roma, providing for effective access to judicial remedy in cases of eviction, while ensuring the full respect of the principle of the rule of law and providing appropriate accommodation for nomadic and semi-nomadic Roma. [25]


In 2005 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Recommendation Rec (2005)4 on improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in Europe.[26]


According to Paragraph 24 on the legalisation of Roma settlements of the Recommendation Rec(2005)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states  on improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in Europe, “the public authorities should make every effort to resolve the undefined legal status of Roma settlements as a precondition for further improvements. Where Roma camp illegally, public authorities should use a proportionate response. This may be through negotiation or the use of legal action. However, they should seek, where possible, solutions, which are acceptable for all parties in order to avoid Roma from being excluded from access to services and amenities to which they are entitled as citizens of the state where they live[27].


Paragraph 31 of the same CM Recommendation states the following: “Bearing in mind the diversity of national, regional and local situations, member states should provide for adequate housing models, through national legislations, policies or strategies. Provision should also be made for Roma to be able to acquire their own accommodation by different means, forms and methods of access to housing, such as social housing, cooperatives, do-it-yourself housing, public housing, caravans and other innovative forms of housing. All the relevant elements to the housing models mentioned (financial, social and other) should be carefully defined”.


Paragraph 26 refers to forced evictions: “Member states should establish a legal framework that conforms with international human rights standards, to ensure effective protection against unlawful forced and collective evictions and to control strictly the circumstances in which legal evictions may be carried out. In the case of lawful evictions, Roma must be provided with appropriate alternative accommodation, if needed, except in cases of force majeure. Legislation should also strictly define the procedures for legal eviction, and such legislation should comply with international human rights standards and principles, including those articulated in General Comment No. 7 on forced evictions of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. Such measures shall include consultation with the community or individual concerned, reasonable notice, provision of information, a guarantee that the eviction will be carried out in a reasonable manner, effective legal remedies and free or low cost legal assistance for the persons concerned. The alternative housing should not result in further segregation.


Paragraph 41 refers to financing projects:” Member states should ensure that housing-related projects are financed from national public budgets as well as from a variety of sources (private donors and international financial institutions) and be administered through a network of partners, at local, regional, national and transfrontier level. Since the implementing period of housing projects is quite long, these projects should be accurately planned in terms of financing and works so as not to raise false expectations among the populations concerned. In addition, since these are mainly area- and community-based projects, it is of the utmost importance that local networks and partnerships be built and fostered.”


It is also worth recalling the case law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning forced evictions of Roma and Travellers. In two recent cases, Yordanova vs Bulgaria and Winterstein vs France, the Court considered the vulnerability of the group concerned and the lengthy period of occupation of the land//housing from which they were evicted. The case Yordanova vs Bulgaria concerned a violation of Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the Bulgarian authorities’ plan to evict Roma from a settlement situated on municipal land in an area of Sofia called Batalova Vodenitsa. The Court found that the removal order had been based on a law, and reviewed under a decision-making procedure, neither of which required the authorities to balance the different interests involved.

While the unlawful occupants cannot claim any legitimate expectation to remain, the authorities’ inactivity has resulted in the applicants’ developing strong links with Batalova Vodenitsa and building a community life there. The principle of proportionality requires that such situations, where a whole community and a long period are concerned, be treated as being entirely different from routine cases of removal of an individual from unlawfully occupied property.”

Article 8 does not imply that the authorities have an obligation under the Convention to provide housing to the applicants. Article 8 does not in terms give a right to be provided with a home (see, Chapman, cited above, § 99) and, accordingly, any positive obligation to house the homeless must be limited (see O’Rourke v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 39022/97, ECHR 26 June 2001). However, an obligation to secure shelter to particularly vulnerable individuals may flow from Article 8 of the Convention in exceptional cases”


The Commissioner for Human Rights has on several occasions drawn the attention of member states on the dramatic housing situation of many Roma communities. The conclusions of the report of the expert workshop “Housing rights: positive duties and enforceable rights” organised by the Commissioner for Human Rights in Budapest on 24-25 September 2007 [CommDH(2007)23][28] are still a valuable source of inspiration. This workshop was followed on 24 October 2007 by a joint statement by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari: “Governments Should Take Positive Steps to Protect the Housing Rights of Roma in Europe[29]. On 25 April 2008, the Commissioner issued a Paper “Housing Rights: the duty to ensure housing for all”[30]. The Commissioner for Human Rights’ publication “Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe[31] also includes a chapter concerning access to adequate housing.


In its country monitoring reports, the European Commission against racism and intolerance (ECRI) has recommended to several members states, including Serbia and the Slovak Republic, to take urgent measures to improve the housing situation of Roma, and particularly to ensure that Roma families who are living without access to basic amenities are provided with a decent standard of housing and infrastructure. ECRI highlighted a number of obstacles (e.g. a strong public opinion against relocating Roma) and concerns (forcible evictions of Roma with little advance warning, no consultation with the Roma families involved and no information on the possibility for them to apply for social security). ECRI also noted the lack of a sustainable resettlement plan for evicted Roma which perpetuates the vicious cycle of forced evictions. In most cases the evicted Roma were offered no assistance or compensation for being moved away from city centres, market places, etc.[32] ECRI noted that some of the social housing is being built in the same segregated areas where Roma previously lived. Therefore, although the new social housing provides better living conditions for Roma, they continue to be de facto segregated from the rest of the population. Over a thousand of Roma continue to live in segregated settlements built without planning permission and/or involvement of relevant authorities[33].


In the context of this report, it is also worth noting that the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) has supported financially some social housing projects for low-income persons[34].




3.1 Serbia


During the first day of the thematic visit, representatives from the Serbian Office of Human and Minority Rights, from the Serbian Ministry of Construction and Urbanism and from the National Housing Agency introduced the topic and presented the main progresses achieved and actions undertaken concerning the creation and improvement of living conditions of Roma, the exercise of their right to housing, as well as information about the recent Law on the legalisation of informal settlements.


Ms Svetlana Ristić, Head of the Housing Unit of the Ministry of Construction and Urbanism presented housing rights in Serbia with a focus on the legalisation and the improvement of Roma housing conditions.


The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia does not regulate the issue of “right to housing”, or obligations of the State in respect of it. However, the Constitution determines the ”right to social protection” in order to meet basic necessities of life (including housing), with respect for human dignity (Article 69), and guarantees generally accepted rules of international law governing, among others, the issues of housing rights (Article 18). Therefore, minimum standards of housing rights may be found in international law, such as:


The Social Housing Law of the Republic of Serbia from 2009 ensures non-discrimination in defining users (Article 2) and positive discrimination in the rules of distribution (under Article 10, Roma have a priority). Regulations about price affordability guarantee unprofitability, and instigating the development of non-profit housing organisations.


The Decree on Standards and Norms for Planning, Designing, Construction and Conditions for Use and Maintenance of Social Housing Apartments from 2013 guarantees security of status by regulating the rights and obligations of public lease (Articles 30-37); price affordability, including cost of rent (Articles 42-44) and housing allowances (Article 46); as well as adequate space (Articles 13-25) and site suitability (Articles 7-12).


The Rulebook on Technical Accessibility Standards from 2013 provides regulations for physical accessibility, whilst the Law on Special Conditions for Registration of Property Right over Buildings Constructed without Construction Permit from 2013 covers security of tenure, registration of ownership over an illegal facility with the aim of addressing one’s housing needs.


The National Strategy for Social Housing and supporting Action Plan from 2012 includes non-discrimination in the establishment of target groups (in accordance with the ETHOS methodology of FEANTSA), price affordability (rental costs and  housing allowance), protection from/during forced resettlement (appropriate action envisaged in the Action Plan), combating homelessness (goal no. 6), availability of services and infrastructure (goal no. 7), as well as improving substandard settlements, which are most often settlements accommodating members of the Roma national minority.


It was also recalled during the thematic visit that the Serbian authorities have adopted the Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of Roma in the Republic of Serbia in 2009 and the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Strategy in 2013, which includes a Roma Housing Action Plan, which includes the following goals:





As regards the implementation of the Housing Action Plan, some developments were indicated: out of 10 PDR’s in 8 LS units financed from the state budget (about 240,000 €), five plans have been adopted and ​​three drafted (pending adoption). EU funds (from IPA 2012) should be used to finance activities (setting up of a spatial database on Roma settlements, drafting of PDR and technical documentation, training and practical skills, e.g. for self-construction, and raising awareness about the importance of legalization).


Serbian authorities indicated some lessons learnt from the implementation of the Housing Action Plan, such as enhancing involvement of users and beneficiaries in addressing their own needs (e.g. for self-construction) and, where possible, keeping the settlement at the existing location.


The Director of the National Housing Agency, Ms Maja Lakić, stated that the Agency was actively involved in various conferences with the aim of gathering knowledge on the existing problems in the area of housing for Roma. She stressed that it was extremely important to respect as far as possible the needs and wishes of the Roma population when providing them with housing. Most of the Roma in Serbia desire to legalize existing settlements. This raises however for the authorities the question of technical capabilities of legalization, in accordance with the Law on Legalization of facilities that came into force on 1 November 2013. The adoption of such a law was an answer to the fact that approximately 1.3 million illegally constructed buildings have been registered in the Republic of Serbia. Approximately 720,000 applications for legalizations have been submitted. The reasons for adopting this law were the following:


The general provisions of this Law include the following:


As regards the legalization of buildings, responsibility for the subsequent issuance of building and occupancy permits, as well as resolution of appeals, has been determined analogously to procedures for issuing construction permits and resolution of appeals in ordinary proceedings. All persons who have applied for legalization by 11 March 2010 are not required to submit a new application, but their documentation must comply with the provisions of this act. The deadline for the submission of new applications is 90 days from the law’s entry into force. A request for legalization includes: a geodetic survey, the structure’s project design, proof of use rights, ownership or lease of construction land, or evidence of ownership of a premises, as well as verification of regulated relations concerning the payment of compensation for construction land and authentication of payment of administrative fees. The building’s project design is prepared for the purpose of legalization and subsequent obtaining of a construction permit. The content of the premises’ project design is determined in relation to the buildings’ type, purpose, area and location.


As regards the legalization of structures, evidence of regulated relations in regards to payment of compensation for construction land development shall be submitted when a competent body determines the possibility of legalization and notifies the applicant. The Minister of Construction and Urbanism has the authority to further regulate certain issues through the adoption of an Ordinance on Legalization. The ordinance has been drafted and shall be published immediately after the Law on Legalization enters into force. The fee for development of construction land shall be based on criteria prescribed by the Law, whilst the establishment of accounting standards shall be established at the level of local self-government units. The law provides recommendations for reducing the amount of compensation. Payment can be one time or in installments of up to 20 years. A local self-government unit shall within 90 days issue a general act which will further regulate the provisions on compensation for construction land development.


As regards demolition of buildings and penalty provisions, demolition of buildings shall not be carried out until the process of legalization has validly and legally been completed. The final conclusion of proceedings rejecting or refusing the application for legalization provides conditions for demolition of a structure. The possibility of acquiring a temporary connection to municipal infrastructure has been retained. The penalty provisions of the Law refer to public and other agencies and responsible persons employed by administrative authorities. Monitoring of the implementation of the Law is conducted by the Ministry in charge of construction affairs.


The implementation of the Law is a shared responsibility:


Municipalities and cities should accept legalization as a strategic goal and carry out the necessary reorganization of their administration in order to effectively address this problem. Funds received from legalization should be dedicated to the construction of new and reconstruction of existing utility infrastructure, especially in areas of a territory where massive illegal construction is being undertaken (informal settlements).


The Law envisages some restrictions and conditions. Structures that are not eligible for legalization are:


As a result of these conditions and restrictions, only a limited number of Roma families will be able to benefit from the Law on legalisation of facilities. This issue has been raised by NGOs and international organisations with authorities and during the thematic visit, the Serbian authorities confirmed their willingness to study the possibility of enacting a By-Law to respond to the particular situation of Roma informal settlements.


3.2 Slovak Republic


Possibilities and opportunities for the integration of the marginalised Roma communities in the field of housing have been developed over recent years in the context of the Housing Action Plan of the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) and of the housing chapter of the National Inclusion strategy for Roma Inclusion. The latter includes two global objectives and eight specific ones:


Global goals:


Specific goals:

1. Disposal of shacks and dwellings unsuitable for living (under the Construction Act and applying minimum housing standards) in marginalized Roma communities, and establishing mechanisms for supporting legal housing for citizens whose dwellings have been disposed of.

2. Analyse chances of repairing the existing apartments in cases where the apartments and/or houses in question are in such a technical condition, which could endanger health or life of their residents. Find chances for intervention in emergency cases caused by natural calamities (such as storms, floods, etc.) and fire.

3. Find ways of legalizing and/or disposing of illegal constructions, while giving their inhabitants an opportunity to acquire legal housing.

4. Introduce financial and legislative tools enabling settlement of land title for the purpose of building rental social apartments.

5. Ensure completing infrastructure and equipment of segregated and separated Roma settlements in the Slovak Republic.

6. Ensure the allocation of funds for the Programme of Housing Development that serves to channel subsidies for procuring standard and lower standard housing and explore the possibility to use EU funds.

7. Introduce and implement a programme of gradual assisted housing as a social service.[35]

8.Prepare legislative framework for providing housing benefit in such a way that it would – in justified cases – be paid directly to the apartment manager or another provider of services associated with housing, and also that the circle of recipients be broadened to include applicants not assessed as citizens in material need, although their income is lower than the sum of the subsistence minimum. Allowance shall, however, be strictly limited to the purpose of covering costs associated with housing.


The poor housing situation of Roma has been also partially addressed by the Programme for Housing Development adopted by the Government and implemented since 1998. In the frame of this programme, the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development of the Slovak Republic subsidizes construction of rental housing of regular and lower standards, infrastructure as well as elimination of system failures in residential homes.


This programme is currently governed by the Act No. 443/2010 on Subsidies for Housing Development and on Social Housing. Based on this programme there were almost 2,900 apartments built in the Slovak Republic. Despite the uniqueness of the programme in Central and Eastern Europe, it cannot be seen as a universal solution to the issue of housing of Roma communities, and it still has its limits. It is in the best interest of the Slovak Republic to maintain this programme and, if possible, improve it further.


Both the Plenipotentiary Office for Roma Communities and the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development provide municipalities with advice on how to implement the Programme for Housing Development and how to use effectively the Structural Funds. From the period 2007-2013, 2 million Euros have been used for social programmes and 8.2 million Euros for infrastructure. Below some figures regarding the implementation of the Housing Development Programme for 2010-2012[36]:



Number of supported buildings

Number of rental appartments with normal standard

The subsidy granted  in  Euros

Number of rental appartments with normal standard



1 420

16 130 720, 00



2 862 680, 00



1 037

12 172 180, 00



3 883 130, 00



1 197

13 906 940, 00



2 836 740, 00


For the next period (2014-2020) the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development wants to maintain the system of grants under the Housing Development Programme. Already this season already started with the changes that should positively affect the availability of social rental housing. Since 1 January 2014 the level of subsidies for the acquisition of rental housing current standard increased from 20 to 30% of eligible costs to 30 to 40% of eligible costs. The possibility to increase subsidies by 5% in case of improvement in energy efficiency compared to standard building requirements was also introduced.


A definition of social housing was introduced in Slovak legislation in 2010.  Social housing is defined as “housing acquired using public funds intended for reasonable and humanly decent housing individuals who cannot obtain housing self-inflicted. Criterion for assessing the general identifier used by tenants of social status is income”[37].


In accordance with the Subsidized Housing and Social Housing Act, subsidies are provided to :


Subsidies are also provided to municipalities and cities for rental housing building, as follows:


Lower standard apartments are attributed especially for vulnerable groups, including citizens of marginalized Roma communities.


The acquisition cost is then fixed amount of rent (which can be set to a maximum of 5 % of the purchase cost per year). At the same time there is the possibility that the remainder of the acquisition cost was worked yourself prospective tenants.


The category of social housing may include:


One of the most recent developments in the field of Roma housing has been the drafting of a Building Act of the Slovak Government aimed at addressing the issue of dwellings built without respecting construction rules and of dwellings built without a proper land’s ownership. This new Act, if adopted, should help solving the problem of access to decent housing for marginalised Roma communities, by addressing legal issues which make it impossible to regularise most Roma dwellings. This draft legislation requires municipalities to adopt a “land-use plan” where they will have to allocate areas for “marginalised groups of inhabitants” within the urban area. Whilst it is a promising piece of legislation, the draft Building Act already received lots of criticism and opposition from local authorities and parts of the majority population who are opposed to have Roma as neighbours. The Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities, Mr Peter Pollák, who is also a Senator, is convinced that only the quick adoption of this legislation without further debate will solve the housing segregation of Roma in the Slovak Republic. Engaging in public debate or discussion with local authorities would necessarily lead to the weakening of the text and to the postponement of the improvement of the living standards of marginalised Roma communities.


Among good practices identified from the Slovak presentation during the thematic visit, the experts noted the publication by the Slovak Ministry of Construction (in co-operation with the Office of the Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities) of a methodological manual for local authorities on procedures and model construction project of lower standards flats.


Another good practice identified by experts is the existence of a mapping of Roma settlements (called Atlas). This Atlas has been published in 2004 and in 2013, thus allowing some comparative analysis about developments and progress made in housing areas. See below a comparison of availability of utilities:


Comparison of availability of utilities

(how many% of households in concentrations may be connected to a network)[38]


Atlas 2004

Atlas 2013




Water  supply









Asphalt road






3.3 Spain


The Spanish Constitution recognizes the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. Article 47 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution (1978) recognises the right to housing:


“All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The authorities shall promote the conditions necessary and establish pertinent norms to make this right effective, regulating the use of land in accordance with the general interest to prevent speculation. The community shall share in the increased values generated by urban activities of public bodies.”


Spain has adopted and developed at the level of the State and Autonomous Communities (Regions) a series of targeted Roma programmes since 198. It  has a State Council of Roma Community since 2005.


Spanish integration policies are balanced between effective and inclusive mainstream policies and Roma targeted measures. In the 70's and 80's, access to housing was a decisive factor in the social incorporation of Spanish Roma and improvements in their standard of living.


The main Spanish regulations covering housing for Roma include:



Both the National Strategy and the Housing Plan propose to eradicate shanty towns or precarious buildings and to improve the quality of dwellings for Roma population. Another important target is to improve infrastructures and urban facilities in the neighbourhoods where Roma people live. More specifically the objectives of the National Strategy are the following:



Due to decentralisation, Roma-related programmes, plans and structures are developed at national, regional and local levels. As an example, a new regional law was adopted in Andalusia: Law 4/2013 from 1 October 2013 on Measures to ensure the social function on housing. Other texts include:

At national level:


- Plan de Acción para el desarrollo de la Población Gitana 2010-2012;

- Programa de Desarrollo Gitano. Instituto de Cultura Gitana;

- Consejo Estatal del Pueblo Gitano.

In Extremadura:


- Plan Extremeño para la Promoción y Participación Social del Pueblo Gitano;

- Consejo Regional para la Comunidad Gitana de Extremadura.

In Andalusia:


- Plan Integral para la Comunidad Gitana de Andalucía;

- Secretaría para la Comunidad Gitana de Andalucía;

- Centro Socio-Cultural Gitano Andaluz.

In Catalonia:


- Plan Integral del Pueblo Gitano de Cataluña;

- Consejo Asesor del Pueblo Gitano de Cataluña (2009-2013).

In the Basque country:


- Plan Vasco para la Promoción Integral y la Participación Social del Pueblo Gitano;

- Consejo para la Promoción Integral y Participación Social del Pueblo Gitano en el País Vasco.

In Navarra:

- Plan Integral de Atención a la Población Gitana de Navarra (2011-2014).


In financial terms, Roma programmes and plans are funded by the state budget, as well as regional and local budgets. EU funds are also being used.


The objectives of the Housing and Rehabilitation State Plan 2009-2012 are the following:

For the first time in Spain, the National Plan for housing policies includes the word “rehabilitation”. Rehabilitation interventions represent 47% of the total number of predicted in the Housing Plan. More than 350,000 houses will be rehabilitated during the period 2009-2012. The rehabilitation process is reinforced using direct subsidies and loans (see Chapter 3.4.4. below). The process is based on cooperation between the three levels of Public Administration that coexist in Spain (municipalities, regions and the State).


Given the high degree of decentralisation and the broad powers assigned to Autonomous Communities in a number of pertinent fields, co-ordination among various actors is a key element. The housing policy in Spain is based on the agreement among different Administrations since important funds are coming from the central Administration through the Housing State Plans and need an adjustment to the peculiarities of the Autonomous Communities and the necessary involvement of the citizens through local administrations.


This system of management can guarantee that the aid programmes are received by the beneficiaries in the most efficient way and are based on collaboration agreements between the Ministry and the Autonomous Communities which, in many programmes, are also extended to the municipalities.


The intervention of private actors is also a sine qua non for an efficient management of the Housing Plans. Financial entities that collaborate in the process of management of some aid programmes and the land promoters for protected houses and construction companies have a very relevant role for the follow-up of the objectives of the Plan.


It is also significant to count on the collaboration of social representatives who know directly the needs of the groups of people who will be given preference in housing schemes. These are low income citizens and those who need a special treatment due to a severe difficulty in acceding a home whether it is by their life stage, like young people or people older than 65 years old, or through special urgent reasons in order to dispose of lodging for the victims of gender violence, terrorism, and those affected by catastrophes, or due to dependency or disability.


The Housing and Rehabilitation State Plan contains 6 pillars and 12 programmes:


1. Promotion of protected houses (controlled price)

- Promotion of protected houses both for renting and for sale.

2. Subsidies for applicants

- Subsidies for tenants;

- Subsidies for buyers of protected houses.

3. Rehabilitation and Renovation Areas

- ARIS (Areas of rehabilitation);

- ARUS (Renewal Areas);

- Subsidies to eradicate shanty towns or precarious buildings.

4. Subsidies for individual Rehabilitation and energy efficiency in new constructions

- Subsidies for individual rehabilitation;

- Subsidies for promoting energy efficiency in new constructions.

5. Subsidies to urbanise land for future protected houses

6. Subsidies for information and processing the Plan.


The Plan sets a preference for the most vulnerable groups in relation to access to a dwelling. The aid referred to in the Plan consists in direct aids, in the access to loans on more affordable conditions or in subsidisation of such loans.


Main measures:


The Aid Programme for the eradication of shanty towns is intended to serve the settlements with marginal population or at risk of social exclusion, with serious health problems, overcrowding of its inhabitants, as well as with safety and living conditions far below the minimum acceptable requirements.


The purpose of this Aid Programme is to assist in the slum eradication through direct aids to the promoters of the programme, which must be legal entities, public, or private, non-profit bodies. Relocation assistance for leased from each household is offered in the aid programme.


The maximum aid amount is 50% of annual income with a maximum of 3,000 € per year per household. The duration of this support is a maximum of 4 years, conditional on the persistence of the circumstances that led to the initial recognition of the right to help.


It also subsidises the cost of management teams and social support, with a maximum of 10% of the total amount of subsidies given to rehousing.


There are two different strategies for housing rehabilitation:


a) Rehabilitation and urban renovation areas aimed at rehabilitating a whole area or a whole neighbourhood. Beyond housing policy it aims at social cohesion. Special attention paid to historical city centres and rural areas.


The objective of Rehabilitation Areas (ARI) is to improve urban and rural areas, recovering historical areas, urban city centres, dilapidated areas and rural areas, both rehabilitating buildings and houses and improving public spaces.


The area must include at least 200 houses (exceptions are permitted). Houses and buildings must be at least 10 years old. Co-operation between different levels of Administration must be ensured.


Interventions than can be subsidized



Subsidies for the rehabilitation of houses and buildings can be up to 40% of the budget, with a maximum of 5,000 Euros for each house. In historic centers and rural areas the subsidy can reach 50% of the budget with a maximum of 6,600 Euros per house. Only families with incomes under  € 48.000 can benefit from the subsidies.


Subsidies for public spaces and urbanisation can be up to 20% of the budget, with the limit of 20% of the subsidy dedicated to rehabilitation.


Subsidies for information teams can be up to 50% of the costs, with a maximum of 5% of the budged dedicated to rehabilitation. In the case of competitive loans: the loan can cover the total budget. The amortization period can be fixed up to 15 years. The interest rate is lower than the average of the market and they are commission-free.


b) Plan Renove” is for individual rehabilitation in houses and buildings, one by one. It has three objectives: accessibility, efficiency in power consumption and improvement of the structural security of the buildings. The Plan Renove is either for buildings or for dwellings.


Subsidies for buildings are provided to the owners association up to 10% of the budget, with a maximum of 1,100 Euros per house or to the owner of the house up to 15% of the budget, with a maximum of € 1,600 or € 2,700 if they are above 65 or disabled and the works are aimed at adapting the building to their specific needs. To receive this subsidy, the family income must be under € 48.000.

Another possibility is a protected loan, with an interest rate lower than the market average and with no commissions. The loan can be subsidized with up to €140 per year for each €10,000 of loan.


Interventions than can be subsidized are:



Subsidies for dwellings are provided up to 25% of the budget, with a maximum of € 2,500, or up to  € 3,400 if the residents are over 65 or disabled, and the works are aimed at adapting the house to their special needs, or up to  € 6,500 if the owner dedicates the house for rental during a minimum of 5 years.


Interventions than can be subsidized include:



The Ministry of Public Works has published “Aids to access a dwelling in Spain[39]. The publication provides information about the basic parameters, calculations, and technical criteria of the housing plans, and its application to the Housing and rehabilitation State Plan 2009-2012. It also provides useful information for citizens, professionals, public and private promoters, and officials of different  administrations, to establish a stable technical bases to housing policy, which will support the management aimed to facilitate the access to housing. It also aims at deepening the knowledge of management and the means of housing policy, which are of great importance in the housing market. Finally, it explains the tools and basic concepts of the Aid Programmes and protected dwellings.


In order to monitor and review the National strategy for social inclusion of Roma in Spain 2012-2020, surveys will be conducted to measure compliance with the objectives set out in section II of the Strategy. Surveys will be from a longitudinal perspective and consistent with those that have served basis to make the objectives of this strategy (e.g. Map of Roma Housing in Spain), thus allowing the realization of comparisons between the situation of the Roma population and the whole Spanish population. These surveys will be conducted in two cycles: one prior to 2015 will provide information on the degree of compliance with intermediate targets, and another, in 2020, will yield information on final results. With the information provided by these surveys, two monitoring reports will be prepared to assess compliance with goals, one intermediate report after 2015 and another at the end of the strategy in 2020.







4.1. Conclusions of the thematic group of experts as regards the organisation of the thematic visit


Partner countries’ experts expressed satisfaction about the organisation of the thematic visit and the agenda which comprised meetings with various state authorities, representatives of the Municipality of Belgrade, and with local Roma NGOs and civil society representatives. They also would like to thank the Serbian authorities for having provided quality interpretation during the visit, as well as local transportation to three different Roma settlements (with accommodation in containers) and to a social housing apartment which provided the opportunity for a comparison between various housing situations[40]. They also appreciated Mr Dragoljub Acković’s invitation to his home which gave the opportunity for experts to see some of the social and cultural actions undertaken for Roma elderly people, as well as the health check-up unit supported by UNDP.


The partner countries’ experts appreciated the opportunity given during the visit to meet with representatives from Open Society Foundations, and representatives from the OSCE and Council of Europe offices in Belgrade. They regretted, however, the absence of representatives from the European Union Delegation, UNDP and UNOPS at this meeting.


The agenda followed the guidelines developed by the CAHROM and allowed the possibility for partner countries to introduce their experience and exchange views with local interlocutors.


4.2 Lessons learnt by the experts


4.2.1 As regards the situation and policy in Serbia


The experts of the thematic group noted with interest that the Serbian authorities and the Municipality of Belgrade had engaged themselves in trying to solve the housing situation of numerous Roma families. The experts underlined that political will is an important factor for success, especially for a long-term investment such as solving housing problems.


They noted, however, that housing interventions are geographically unbalanced. Whilst the Municipality of Belgrade has developed a number of measures to improve the housing conditions of Roma, and whilst it exists a number of projects for construction or self-reconstruction of Roma dwellings in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (such as the project “Dweller-Driven Upgrading of Roma settlements” supported by the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation), there is a lack of concrete actions for improving Roma housing conditions in many other parts of Serbia. The experts of the thematic group considered that additional efforts should be made by other regions and municipalities of Serbia to address Roma (re)housing. The setting-up of a network of municipalities having a Roma population as it is the case in other countries (like in Greece or the Netherlands) was suggested by experts to share experience. Serbian municipalities should be also encouraged to join the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion set up by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.


The experts also noted that whilst some of the forcibly evicted Roma families from the Gazela bridge and other places in Belgrade were provided with social housing, in most cases they were offered “temporary” accommodation in metal containers. On the one hand, this relocation provides an improvement in terms of access to basic services (water supply, electricity, etc.). On the other hand, these containers are small, cold and damp and are often far from city centres, city markets, etc. Some of the evicted Roma were relocated to Southern Serbia, far from Belgrade. This situation has led civil society actors to predict that the forcibly evicted Roma will eventually return to Belgrade where they have a better chance of earning a living. In order to avoid the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of forced evictions, there is a need for a sustainable resettlement plan for evicted Roma and long-term rehousing solutions. The longer the Roma families have been living in containers; the most difficult it is for these families to accept the situation and to integrate. The group of experts was pleased to hear from Ms Lakić, Director of the National Housing Agency of the Republic of Serbia, that the issue of Roma families’ long-term integration should be taken into deep consideration when providing them with housing. As Ms Lakić stated, it is not so consequential to just provide them with accommodation. If they are not secured full integration with education, employment and so-forth, housing shall generally not succeed. One of the problems she mentioned is also sustainability of the action. In Barajevo for instance, members of the Roma community abandoned a site.


Social housing is one of the solutions and alternatives implemented by the municipality of Belgrade. It requires however a lot of investments, criteria defined in advance, a mapping of the needs, and a consultation process with municipal services concerned, Roma potential beneficiaries and with future neighbours. The group of experts visited an apartment in social housing, which definitely provided a good rehousing solution for the Roma family, despite the fact that the apartment might be small for a large family. In Serbia, like in many other countries in Europe, social housing offers are quite limited, which explains that not all roma families could benefit from this option.


The group of experts was also informed about alternative solutions for the relocation of families living in containers implemented in Serbia with the support of UNOPS. This organisation has invested 3.6 million Euros on housing. It offers two types of measures for Roma housing:

  1. Social houses: apartments or flats in vertical buildings to re-locate families coming from the slums and shanty towns. This is a renting solution (families should pay a low monthly rent);
  2. Village houses: families should find the location for the house. UNOPS provides a grant of 7,000 Euros to families to buy the land and/or reconstruct the house. This is a solution for families willing to access property. In February 2014, 27 families will be installed in two locations.


Another lesson learnt during the thematic visit was, when preparing housing reforms, to involve legal specialists and architects having a good knowledge of the particularities of Roma housing situations and needs, as it is the case in the Slovak Republic.


The experts of the thematic group agreed that the recent adoption of a Law on Legalisation of Facilities (Buildings/Structures) was a missed opportunity for Roma. A lack of prior consultation and public discussion with Roma representatives resulted in the adoption of a law which does not sufficiently take into consideration the specificities of Roma informal settlements. The group of experts, however, welcomed the fact that Serbian authorities, the Ministry for Construction and urbanism in particular, are willing to consider a By-Law which would try to resolve some of the Roma informal settlements. The experts however were wondering how this by-law will be drafted in order not to contradict the general law.

The experts took note in that respect of some of the consequences of the postponement of the legalisation of Roma settlements indicated by Mr Osman Balić from Yurom Centar[41]:


Another conclusion of the experts was the relevance to provide Roma with a real opportunity to exercise their rights, and simultaneously develop social responsibility among their ranks in the sense that they have to learn to respect their obligations, such as sending children to school, finding employment or vocational training, paying rent or taxes for electricity and water supply, etc.


As regards school attendance, although the experts of the thematic group were informed by the Municipality of Belgrade that Roma children living in the visited settlements were enrolled in ordinary schools and had access to public transport, they noticed that most of the children were present in the settlements during the visit. Many “excuses” were given by Roma parents to explain that their children were not at school: “bank holiday in Serbia”, “the bus did not show up this morning”, “children were vaccinated yesterday”, etc. At the debriefing meeting, the group of experts reported about this aspect and the Municipality of Belgrade promised to check the situation.


Mr Bajram Saitović, Head of the Group for the improvement of the Roma position at the Office for Human and Minority Rights, stressed in his oral conclusions during the thematic visit that it is necessary to act swiftly regarding the new legislation about legalisation of settlements, taking into account the complexity of situations and taking into account the Spanish examples of social housing and integrated approaches for Roma inclusion. Roma housing policy measures should respect international standards and aim at avoiding the persistence of slums, evictions, housing segregation, and homelessness.


Mr Dragoljub Acković, recognised that the infrastructure in Roma settlements in Serbia was appalling, and that their legalization should be urgently carried out. In order to solve the issue of Roma housing, he underlined the necessity for designing a theoretical framework which would clearly provide options and models for resolution of various housing situations. He also underlined the lack of statistical data about Roma communities and settlements. Whilst there exists already some sort of mapping of Roma community settlements in Serbia, there is a need to update this mapping on a regular basis like it was done in the Slovak Republic with the 2004 and 2013 Atlas of Roma settlements and in Spain by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano. This would allow authorities and relevant stakeholders to highlight progress and identify potential obstacles in the implementation of Roma housing policy measures.


There is a need to allocate more funding for solving Roma housing issues in the long-term, both at state and regional and local levels. A better use of existing EU funding (IPA in Serbia, ESF in EU member states) is crucial. The Spanish experience in using European Structural Funds for Roma housing projects was considered as a positive model.


One of the main obstacles for the improvement of the housing conditions remains the strong public opinion against relocating Roma. It happened in the past that when the Serbian authorities proposed that Roma be relocated to appropriate housing, the local population protested and refused to see Roma population moving into their neighbourhood. Measures would be needed to combat the intolerance and racism faced by Roma in general and to combat the strong public opinion against relocating the Roma in particular. For example, consultations and meetings between Roma potential beneficiaries and future neighbours could be organised in advance so as to limit the “surprise effect” and protests at the moment when families are moving in. In addition, the relocation of Roma families should be accompanied by a series of measures to help them integrate in a mixed-environment and also to pay rents, taxes (electricity, water, etc.) for which they might not have been used to after spending decades in informal settlements or on public owned and assisted areas.


The group of experts is aware that there have been many forcible evictions of Roma in and around Belgrade over the last years. Even when there is a legal basis, these evictions have mostly taken place with little advance warning and civil society actors decry the fact that they occur with no consultation with the Roma families involved and no information on the possibility for them to apply for social security. The experts believe that the Serbian authorities should take urgent measures to protect Roma from forced evictions by ensuring that:

1) An opportunity for genuine consultation by those affected is created;

2) An adequate and reasonable notice is given;

3) Information on proposed evictions is provided within a reasonable time;

4) Evictions do not take place in particularly bad weather or at night;

5) Adequate resettlement opportunities are provided;

6) Legal remedies are provided;

7) Legal aid is provided to persons who are in need of it to enable them to seek redress through the courts;

8) Local authorities and other relevant stakeholders are trained on the respect for basic rights during eviction processes.


  1. As regards the situation in the Slovak Republic


The Slovak National Roma Inclusion Strategy should include clearer indicators and benchmarks which are often lacking in the Strategy, despite two mapping exercises of the housing situation of Roma marginalised communities.


The Slovak Republic should not simply “explore the possibility to use EU funds” but make full use of the funds already available in the context of the European Regional Development Fund. In that respect, the Slovak national, regional and local authorities should make full use of the joint Council of Europe/European Commission ROMACT programme which aims at promoting the inclusion of Roma at local and regional level. ROMACT can help by strengthening the capacity of local and regional authorities (targeting both elected officials and senior civil servants) to design and implement plans and projects for Roma inclusion. It intends thereby to improve their responsiveness and accountability towards Roma citizens. It focuses on generating sustained policy engagement which translates into sustainable plans and measures for Roma inclusion. Eventually it will lead to the delivery of inclusive public services at the local level. In that way ROMACT will contribute to the implementation at local level of National Roma Integration Strategies. Concretely ROMACT sets out to:


The responsibility of local authorities in dealing with the needs of Roma communities living on their territory is greater than ever before. Acting for the inclusion of Roma communities at local level requires however political courage and commitment, adequate administrative capacity, consistent and lasting efforts and a strategic approach that goes beyond electoral cycles.


One of the problems encountered in Slovak Republic is to make people consider social housing as a service. Housing swallows the largest part of the household budget. Towns and municipalities - as primary providers of social services - have to take a more active role in finding housing opportunities for their residents, even though their municipal budgets are limited.


In areas inhabitated by socially excluded communities, it would be necessary to put in place long-term training and social assistance, and create conditions for the establishment of community centres or social clubs for active involvement of targeted communities citizens.


  1. As regards the Roma housing situation in Spain


The group of experts took note of partnerships which exist between the Spanish government and civil society. They were interested by the role played by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano in Spain which develops political and institutional actions (information, awareness raising and counselling to public administrations with a view to eradicating  the shanty town problem and improving the housing conditions of Roma families, studies and research such as the Map on Housing and the Roma community in Spain) and acts as service-provider for Roma families (advice and guidance services related to housing; Programmes of Social Accompaniment related to relocation processes: integral and adapted actions (in 8 Spanish regions). In 2012 the Foundation worked with 1,300 families providing social accompaniment and 131 families managed to leave their shanty dwellings.


The group of experts also took note of various initiatives undertaken in Spain that try at various levels to tackle difficult situations: stop evictions, paralyze evictions in winter time, payment of common expenses or/and utilities, etc.


The Serbian experts and local interlocutors met during the thematic visit welcomed the efforts of the Spanish authorities to eradicate shanty towns and slum dwellings so as to end completely and definitively such type of housing and their efforts to relocate the inhabitants to standard housing, thereby, significantly improving the living conditions of vulnerable groups, especially Roma[42]. The Serbian interlocutors have been particularly interested to hear about progress achieved in Spain in the field of Roma housing, and noted the importance of accompanying and support measures. The various examples provided during the thematic visit can be summarized as follows:


In Madrid, the IRIS (Institute for rehousing and Social Integration of the Regional Government of Madrid) eradicated 109 settlements matching family needs and houses from an integral perspective and provided social rents. In 2012 they worked with 198 families (821 persons) living in slums. Since the start of the project in 1998, 2,089 families have been relocated (the success rate is 96%).


In Segovia, El Tejerín and Madrona Highway settlements were eliminated in view of social inclusion of the families living in the settlements from an integral perspective. The relocation process started in 2005 and accompanying and support measures are still running. 68 families were relocated between 2009 and 2012 (288 persons): 33 families in public houses, 33 in private rented houses, one family owns its home, and one family lives in a public assisted centre.


In Avilés (Asturias), the process went over different phases. It is recognized as a good practice and has been very much studied by other municipalities. In the year 2000, the Avilés Municipality established a consortium that engaged political parties, different levels of the administration, NGOs, private companies etc. and prepared a plan to eradicate all shanty towns from an integral perspective. By 2006, 112 families were relocated in rented houses (public and private) in regular neighbourhoods with required urban services. Shanty towns were completely eliminated. The level of conflicts was low due to the adequate consensus, supports and methodology implemented. The action resulted in an improvement of the urban environment of former settlements. Another positive element was the effective integral approach supported by a strong networking, both public and private.


In Malaga, the Roma population is about 5,000 (25% of the total population). In 1965, following a flood, families from three neighbourhoods (La Palma, La Palmilla and Virreinas) were rehoused from shanty-towns and sub-standard housing areas located in the outside part of the city. The process of integration since then has been very positive and there is no physical segregation between Roma and non Roma population. For example:

- 80 buildings (over a total of 88) were refurbished in La Palma. 79 buildings, after 8 years, continue to have an appropriated maintenance and an active neighbourhood community life;

- The refurbishing of La Palmilla and Virreinas neighbourhoods has started.


Then, as conclusion, the Roma population is completely physically integrated in neighbourhood urban structures and social and participative structures, because of the integrative approaches implemented and the active participation of the community in the consultative processes and in the decisions concerned to them.


All these examples have in common the following elements:


The process has usually been the following:


  1. Diagnosis of the needs;
  2. Establishment of individual plans;
  3. Setting the economic and human means;
  4. Improvement of settlements/quarters by providing the essential elements necessary to meet minimum standards (palliative measures);
    • Infrastructure: running water, electricity, paved roads, garbage collection…
    • Social intervention programme (intercultural teams);
    • Priority given to those families with more possibilities of succeeding (and which will act as a reference for other Roma families);
    • Creation of links with services outside the settlement/quarter (school, health-care centre…).

5. Reallocation (desegregation)

  1. Eradication of the settlement.


The Spanish expert shared the following lessons learnt from the Spanish experience:



4.3 Good practices identified



Appendix 1 : Official invitation received from Serbian authorities on 4 November 2013


(E-mail received to be included]






Appendix 2: List of experts participating in the CAHROM thematic group





Appendix 3: Agenda of the CAHROM thematic visit to Belgrade, Serbia, on 18-20 November 2013


































Appendix 4: comparative summary of places visited during the field visit









Close to Belgrade. 7 km from the village where children go to school

Suburb of Tukaritztsa (close to Belgrade).

25 km from Belgrade.

The barracks have been installed in the public  lands of an old factory which was burned.

In the city of Belgrade, New- Belgrade neighbourhood.

It is a block of houses.

Since when




September 2012

Number of people

44 families: 225 people of which 108 are children.

In march 2012 4 families left to go to social flats.

90 families: 163 people.

15 families have been relocated.

25 families at the beginning and now 16 families.

56 people. More elderly people than in other settlements.

50 families in the whole block. There are 40% of Roma.

Integrated model Roma – Non Roma.


From Kosovo. Before, they were living in slums.

From Kosovo. Before, they were living in slums.

From Kosovo and South Serbia and Neo – Begrad slums.

From Kosovo and South Serbia and Neo – Begrad slums and other barracks.

Number of barracks


39. 50 in total. (some of them are empty)


50 flats of 52 m2 each aprox.

School attendance

There is a barrack adapted as school for adults (language skills)

There is a barrack adapted as school for adults (language skills)

There is a barrack adapted as school for adults (language skills)

There are not many children and this settlement is too far from the closest school (17 km).

Children go to school, but they have training rooms also in the building.

Financed by / Programme

UNOPS. It is a project with two phases (Makis I and Makis II)



The inhabitants have to pay a rent of 15 € per month. They have a reduction of 10% of the electricity that is covered by the Municipality.


Electricity, water, social bathrooms. Paid by the Municipality of Belgrade. School transportation.

Electricity, water, social bathrooms. Paid by the Municipality of Belgrade. School transportation.

The cost per container is 50€.

Electricity, water, social bathrooms. Paid by the Municipality of Belgrade.

Sometimes there is no electricity.


There is a social worker of welfare services from the Municipality working giving assistance, support and evaluating criteria. It is necessary to be registered in the cadastre 2 years in order to have the access to the apartment.


Yes. The Municipality of Belgrade.

Yes. The Municipality of Belgrade.

Yes. The Municipality of Belgrade.

Yes. The Municipality of Belgrade (the Social Welfare department)

Loans / Credits



The municipality offers the possibility to buy the barrack by 8000 €..

They receive a low amount of money as help, but that is not enough.

They received from the municipality 90 € of help per month.

Security of Tenure

Normally about 2 – 3 years (average).

Normally about 2 – 3 years (average). They have exceed the time..

At the end of 2014 they will have the flats.

A contract of renting is signed with the family for 5 years of commitment and after the contract should be extended.

Future perspectives

The settlement is a temporary measure until they could be re-located in social houses.

The settlement is a temporary measure until they could be re-located in social houses.

The settlement is a temporary measure until they could be re-located in social houses.

It is a good example of integration between Roma and non-Roma.



[1] The term “Roma” used at the Council of Europe refers to Roma, Sinti, Kale and related groups in Europe, including Travellers and the Eastern groups (Dom and Lom), and covers the wide diversity of the groups concerned, including persons who identify themselves as Gypsies.

[2] See paragraph 21 of document CAHROM (2013)17 Report of the 5h CAHROM meeting, available on the CAHROM website (

[3] Due to the redistribution of responsibilities for Roma issues within the Greek government, Greece could not nominate any expert for the thematic group. However, during parts of the thematic visit, Greece was represented by Mr Panagiotis Giannakoulias, Secretary of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade. Information concerning Greek Roma, and the housing policy of the Greek government, including relevant information of the Integrated Action Plan for the Social Integration of Greek Gypsies, as presented by the Greek member in the MG-S-ROM, Ms Louiza Kyriakaki, in 2008 was included for reference in the Addendum to this report.

[4] All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

[5] See for instance Amnesty International report “Serbia: Stop the forced evictions of Roma settlements”, from June 2010.

[6] In this respect, see the article by Jaroslav Kling (UNDP) “Roma inclusion: Building houses does not solve the housing issue” at .

[7] Amnesty International report “Serbia: Stop the forced evictions of Roma settlements”, from June 2010, page 2.

[8] UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/77, para 1.

[9] In accordance with the Law on Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities from 2002.

[10] In addition, 997 persons self-declared as Ashkali and 1,834 as Egyptians.

[11] See the letter sent by YUROM Centar on 16th July 2013 in the Addendum.

[12] See interviews made with Mr Dragoljub Acković, Deputy Director, Office of Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia, during the thematic visit, available in English in the Addendum to this report.

[13] Source: Jakšić and Bašić, 2005. Information provided by Mr Osman Balić from Yurom Centar – see Addendum to the report.

[14] Information provided by the Deputy Director of the Office for Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia on the basis of information collected from the OSCE Office in Serbia.


[16] See for instance the estimate given by Jean Pierre Liégeois in “Roma in Europe” (December 2007): 400,000 to 600,000.

[17] In comparison, the 2004 Atlas of Roma communities gave an estimate of 320,000 Roma living in 1,086 municipalities with registered Roma settlements.

[18] See Vaňo (2002).

[19] Matlovič  (2005).

[20] See chapter D.2.4 Housing of the National Roma Inclusion Strategy of the Slovak Government submitted to the European Commission:

[21] Home is more than a roof over your head: Roma denied adequate housing in Serbia” report by Amnesty International, 2011.

[22] Serbia, the Slovak Republic and Spain are all participating in the Decade for Roma Inclusion and had therefore to develop inter alia an action plan on Roma housing.

[23] See CAHROM thematic reports …

[24] A non-exhaustive list of relevant international instruments, texts and reports can be found in the Addendum to this report.

[25] See the text of the Strasbourg Declaration at:





[30] See this Paper at

[31] Council of Europe Publishing (February 2012).

[32] See ECRI report on Serbia at

[33] See ECRI report on Slovakia at:

[34] See the factsheet of the Council of Europe Development Bank in the Addendum to this report.

[35] Currently this programme is operational in two Slovak towns.

[36] Source: the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development of the Slovak Republic, November 2013.

[37] Law . 443/2010 Z. z. of Subsidized Housing and Social Housing Act, as amended 134/2013 Z. z.

[38] The situation varies according to the distance of the Roma settlement from the city. The farther from the city the settlement is, the less people have the opportunity to benefit from infrastructure equipment.


[39] The publication can be viewed or free downloaded from the website of the Ministry of Public Works:


[40] See a comparative summary of the visit to the Roma settlements with containers in Appendix 4.

[41] See Yurom Centar’s letter addressed to the Serbian authorities from16 July 2013 in the Addendum to this report.

[42] See Rehousing programmes carried out in Madrid or Barcelona through the Spanish Plan for Housing and Rehabilitation to relocate families from slums into standard housing where rent is subsidised below market value.