Article by Agnes Gagyi, Solidarity Economy Center, Budapest

In 2021, together with its partners Periféria Policy and Research Center, Gólya Cooperative, and Zugló Collective House Association, SEC set up the Alliance for Collaborative Real Estate Development (ACRED) as an alternative real estate developer institution. ACRED has the capacity to acquire, develop and manage community-owned real estate both for residential and for community purposes. The purpose of this new organization is to act as the facilitator of new housing cooperative projects.

Between 2020 and 2021, SEC and Periféria Policy and Research Center carried out a research (in Hungarian)that surveyed international examples and Hungarian implementation possibilities for alternative housing development by unions. Within this project, we already collaborated SZEF (Forum for Trade Union Collaboration, Hungary) and their member union PSZ, the Pedagogical Union. In 2021, SEC carried this collaboration further into a participative research and mentoring project with 3 unions on members’ housing situation. This project identified several possibilities for realizing a first pilot project of union-based participatory housing development in Hungary.

From April 2022, SEC works with ACRED to prepare a model for union-based rental housing for members of a Budapest public workers’ union, using presently empty apartments owned by a Budapest public service company. This effort is supported by results of our survey showing that these workers are affected of housing overcrowding higher than the Budapest and national average. They have a lower rate of homeownership than the national average. They spend higher than average shares of their incomes on housing, with every fourth respondent struggling with housing-related payments, and one third of respondents having met housing problems in the last year. 80% of respondents said that they would support some form of housing help from the union. By April 2023, in collaboration with the trade union and the public service company that owns the apartments, SEC and ACRED will carry through a process of consultations, negotiations and modeling that will produce a realistic legal, financial and architectural model for renovating and maintaining those apartments, and putting them to use by union members. We expect that this modeling phase will set a stable ground for the realization of this particular project, and serve as a scalable model for other collaborations.