Roma housing: separate and unequal
Bratislava, Slovakia – 25 February 2013 – Housing is one of the priority areas of the Decade of Roma Inclusion.
The results of the 2011 Regional Roma Survey conducted by UNDP and the World Bank, with co-funding from the European Commission (EC), suggests that this is with good reason. Disproportionate shares of Roma (compared to non-Roma living in close proximity) reside in inadequate housing without access to basic infrastructure, and as such face increased health risks.
The right to adequate and secure housing is a key human right and is enshrined in international human rights law.
Percentage of households facing multiple housing deprivation. Source: UNDP/WB/EC regional Roma survey 2011
Abbreviations: AL (Albania), BA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), BG (Bulgaria), H (Hungary), HR (Republic of Croatia), CZ (Czech Republic), MD (Moldova), ME (Montenegro), MK (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), RO (Romania), RS (Republic of Serbia), SK (Slovakia). See EUROSTAT.
Roma housing conditions seem to have improved in some respects during 2004-2011.
- - 2011 survey data show that Roma households’ access to piped water and sanitation services had generally improved throughout the region. However, the pace of progress has been different in different countries and some regression also seems to have occurred.
Improvements in Roma access to basic infrastructure, 2004-2011 (in perentage points)
- - The percentage of Roma respondents living in slums and ruined houses declined in five of the 10 countries surveyed.
- - There are moderate increases in average square footage per person for Roma households in most countries.
- - The most significant progress during 2004-2011 seems to have occurred in access to improved sanitation services, followed by reductions in numbers of Roma living in insecure housing and growth in the square footage of Roma dwellings. By contrast, progress in access to improved water sources, and in the number of rooms per Roma household member, seems to have been much more limited.
The need for greater engagement by the authorities on housing issues seems particularly pressing.
Progress in living space per Roma household member, 2004-2011 (in square metres)
- - Rights-based approaches to Roma housing should be applied and commitments stemming from international human rights documents should be implemented.
- - More attention should be given to questions of housing affordability, ghettoization and segregation. These are both the outcomes and drivers of Roma social exclusion. They often influence other areas of life, so should be treated in terms of social inclusion, employment opportunities, adequate education, health care facilities, etc.
- - A comprehensive, inclusive approach is crucial for resolving the complex housing issues faced by many Roma communities. Survey data show that the key themes of the Roma Decade – education, employment, health care, and housing – are closely linked. Attempts to address housing issues separately are therefore unlikely to yield satisfactory results.
- - The application of “one-size-fits-all” approaches to Roma housing concerns risks leaving the most vulnerable behind. Survey data suggest that Roma slum dwellers face particular challenges in terms of access to housing services, and housing quality, but also its affordability and location. Roma women appear to be a particularly vulnerable group, underscoring the importance of gender-based approaches to the design and implementation of Roma-related housing policies.
- - Roma housing issues cannot be reduced solely to socio-economic drivers. Anti-discrimination measures need to be applied, along with other steps to improve Roma housing conditions. Roma communities should be provided with more information about their rights to adequate housing, anti-discrimination policies, and mechanisms for seeking redress in cases of discrimination. NGOs and other relevant institutions need to improve their outreach towards Roma communities, which in turn should be given more opportunities for meaningful involvement in designing and implementing housing policies.
- - More generally, national (and European) legal and policy frameworks to address Roma housing issues are now in place. Implementation is now the challenge.
- - The survey data underscore the significance of better monitoring and evaluation of Roma housing conditions. Further research is needed, focusing on individual countries and good practices, showcasing the positive effects of an inclusive and integrated approach to Roma housing issues.