Although informal settlements are generally perceived as a purely residential issue, it is important to note that there are many other problems associated with them, such as: lack of identity documents, lack of access to infrastructure, lack of access to social services, overcrowding or the fact that the phenomenon is increasing by the day.
According to the current legislation, without property papers, a person can only get a temporary identity document valid not more than one year, after which it must be renewed.
The consequences for those who don’t have identity papers are serious: without them, the risk of social exclusion increases, and any relationship with public authorities becomes very difficult. It is a legal practice that during an interaction with various local public authorities, citizens are assigned based on the address on their identity card.
In addition, because many informal settlements are located outside the city and therefore are not included in the general and zonal urban plans, access to public infrastructure is more difficult and often absent: the authorities have no tools to prove the need of expanding the road infrastructure, water or sewage systems, etc., and people in such a situation have no paper to claim their rights. Access to electricity is also very difficult as any contract with electricity suppliers requires a property document.
People living in informal settlements can’t take a job legally and can’t sign any formal contract, which leaves them without adequate protection against abuse. In addition, people who can’t get identity papers will not benefit from any kind of social service (social assistance, education, medical assistance), except for emergency medical assistance.
Restricted access to social services makes the situation worse for these people, who often live in overcrowded conditions, which increases the risk of illness and/or injury. According to European statistics, Romania has the highest overcrowding rate in Europe (48.8% compared to 23.7% in Lithuania or 2.4% in Cyprus) and is ranked first regarding severe housing deprivation (DSL) – a benchmark for poor housing conditions.
If we also consider that the phenomenon of informal living is steadily increasing, then we can only hope that the competent authorities will take the needed measures to improve the situation of people living in informal settlements as soon as possible.