Orbán Government Homeless Policy

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán chats with a resident during a visit to a homeless shelter in Budapest in February 2012.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán chats with a resident during a visit to a homeless shelter in Budapest in February 2012.

In 2013, the Orbán government adopted an amendment to Hungary’s constitution, called the Fundamental Law, making it possible for municipal councils to declare living in public areas to be illegal and punishable as a Petty Offense under the criminal code. The government had been attempting to outlaw habitation of public areas since shortly after it came to power, first through passage of the Property Development Law in November 2010 and then through the amendment of the Petty Offenses Law in November 2011. However, Hungary’s Constitutional Court struck down this legislation on the grounds that it violated the provision in the Fundamental Law declaring the right to human dignity to be inviolable. The Orbán administration circumvented the Constitutional Court’s finding by using its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly to amend the Fundamental Law in order to achieve its legislative objective. (The Constitutional Court does not have the right to declare a provision of the constitution to be unconstitutional). 

According to Central Statistics Office data, there were 17,000 homeless people living in Hungary in 2011 (source in Hungarian, p. 13). According to civil society, there are about 30,000 homeless people living in Hungary, including about 8,000 in Budapest (source in English). There are 5,500 beds in homeless shelters in Budapest and 5,000 beds in homeless shelters throughout the rest of Hungary (source in Hungarian). There are thus several thousand homeless people in Hungary, somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of the total number of homeless people in the country, who will be unable to comply with potential municipal laws banning the habitation of public spaces. 

On September 11, 2013, Interior Ministry State Secretary Károly Kontrát said that “It is not the government’s objective to punish a living situation, homelessness. However, homelessness, as a living situation, is not a reason to make the lives of other, non-homeless, people more difficult” (source in Hungarian). On October 27, 2012, Human Resources Ministry State Secretary Miklós Soltész said that government would spend 8.5bn forints (29.4 million euros) on services for homeless in 2012 (source in Hungarian).  

2010

November 8: FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) National Assembly representatives approved the Property Development Law granting municipal councils the authority to declare the “improper use of public areas” to be Petty Offenses (source in Hungarian). 

2011

January 1: the Fidesz-controlled municipal council of Budapest’s eighth-district, considered to be the most impoverished district in the city, declared rummaging in garbage cans to be a Petty Offense entailing a fine of 50,000 forints (182 euros) (source in Hungarian). 

October 6: the Fidesz-controlled municipal council of Budapest’s eighth district furthermore declared living in public spaces in the district to be illegal based on the Property Development Law adopted on November 8, 2010 (source in Hungarian). 

October 13: National Assembly Civil Rights Commissioner Máté Szabó announced that he will ask the Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the Budapest eighth-district municipal council’s prohibition of rummaging in garbage cans and living in public spaces (source in Hungarian). 

November 14: Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik National Assembly representatives adopted an amendment to the Petty Offenses Law making it possible for law-enforcement authorities to impose a fine of up to 150,000 forints (546 euros) or imprison for up to two months those found in violation for the second time in a half-year period municipal laws prohibiting the habitation of public areas (source in Hungarian). 

December 6: National Assembly Civil Rights Commissioner Máté Szabó announced that he would ask Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the November 8, 2010 Property Development Law and the November 14, 2011 amendment to the Petty Offenses Law (source in Hungarian).   

2012

April 5: the Fidesz-controlled eighth-district municipal council repealed its ban on rummaging in garbage cans, citing administrative factors (source in Hungarian). 

November 12: the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional and annulled laws declaring the habitation of public areas to be Petty Offenses on the grounds that they violate the stipulation of the Fundamental Law declaring human dignity to be inviolable (source in Hungarian). 

2013

March 11: Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives adopted as part of the fourth amendment of the Fundamental Law a provision making it possible for municipal councils to declare the habitation of public areas to be illegal, thus circumventing the previous finding of the Constitutional Court, which does not have the power to annul stipulations of the Fundamental Law, that such legislation was unconstitutional (source in Hungarian).   

September 9: the National Assembly’s Local Council and Property Development Committee approves for debate Interior Minister Sándor Pintér’s proposed law stipulating that municipal councils can define specific public areas in which habitation is prohibited (source in Hungarian). 

July 15: the municipal council of the 17th district of Budapest outlaws habitation of public areas within the district, thus making it the first local council in Hungary to do so pursuant to the Fidesz-KDNP amendment to the Fundamental Law on March 11, 2013 (source in Hungarian).

September 30: Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives adopt a law pursuant to the March 11, 2013 constitutional amendment making it possible for municipal councils to outlaw living in public spaces and punish violation of this law as a Petty Offense under the Criminal Code. The law also makes it possible for municipal councils to prohibit the building of structures of any type without permission from the owner of the property on which it is built (source in Hungarian). 

Activists from The City Is For Everybody organization protest the Budapest City Council's impending ban on habitation of designated areas in the city.

Activists from The City Is For Everybody organization protest the Budapest City Council’s impending ban on habitation of designated areas in the city.

November 14: The Budapest Municipal Council approved a city ordinance declaring the habitation of the following public spaces in the city to be illegal: World Heritage Sites, which include the Buda Castle District, Andrássy Avenue, Gellért Hill, Heroes’ Square and the Hungarian Parliament Building; public-transportation stops and stations; 29 designated pedestrian-underpasses; the People’s Park (Népliget); and Liszt Ferenc International Airport. Members of The City Is For Everybody (A Város Mindenkié) organization initially prevented the Municipal Council from holding its session to protest the impending legislation, though Mayor István Tarlós ordered police to forcibly remove the protesters from the assembly hall (source in Hungarian).   

Last updated: May 30, 2016.

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