On Friday, July 6, the international conference “Tackling informal settlements – practices and policies dealing with housing informality” was held in Bucharest, with the extraordinary participation of internationally renowned experts in the field of housing and urban planning, like Sasha Tsenkova (Professor, University of Calgary, Canada), Julien Damon (Professor, Sciences Po Paris, France), Ashmet Elezovski (National Roma Center, Macedonia) and numerous representatives of national authorities (MDRAP, ANR), local authorities, NGOs and local communities facing informal housing or related issues in Romania.

More than 64.000 Romanian families live in informal settlements, without a property paper on the land and their house, in some cases without an identity document, together with a limited or inexistent access to basic services and road infrastructures. The houses are often located in places which are exposed to safety and health risks for the residents. However, the current normative framework, governmental policies and EU programs for Romania don’t contain clear references to informal settlements. This is one of the main obstacles to public interventions on these informal settlements, which could stop or reduce this phenomenon.

UN Habitat estimates that 1 out of 8 people in the world were living in slums in 2016, which represents a total of approximately 1 billion people. According to Sasha Tsenkova, it is estimated that around 15 million people are living in informal settlements only in Europe, without counting the recent migration wave, which would mean another 3.5 million people.

While other states recognize the existence of this socio-spatial phenomenon and start to seek solutions to informal housing or related issues, the topic is still barely studied in Romania. Moreover, public initiatives and debates on the implementation of national solutions to alleviate the problems related to informal housing are poorly developed and, even when people show interest and availability, the lack of experience and of dedicated legal frameworks make it difficult to act.

“In Romania, the phenomenon of informal housing is significant both by the number of affected people and by the lack of reaction over the last 25 years –by central authorities and at the community level, where individual and collective cases can be solved. There are several typologies of exclusion that have led and still lead to informal housing in both urban and rural areas in Romania, with serious consequences for people’s basic rights”, mentioned Sasha Tsenkova during the conference in Bucharest.

The event provided the opportunity to present both the phenomenon of informal living in international context, and good practices applied in other countries that recognize, define and approach it. In addition, one of the most important objectives of the conference was to facilitate a sustained dialogue and to support public and private actors that are relevant to the recognition and  addressing of the phenomenon at local level to work together, including to exchange knowledge and good practices known or necessary for the development of policies and programs dedicated to this phenomenon in Romania.

We invite you to watch below a short film about the phenomenon of informal living in Romania.

The event agenda

I. International Panel – Recognition, responsibility and solutions – good international practices


  • Sasha Tsenkova, Canada – “Informality, Urban Planning & Rebuilding Resilient Communities”
  • Ashmet Elezovski, Macedonia – “Legalization of Roma Housing in Macedonia”
  • Julien Damon, France – “Three perspectives on slums: the world, Europe, France”
  • Q&A

“We can’t come up with a uniform definition to cover all types of informal communities which exist around the globe. In many countries, it is a phenomenon –unfortunately, growing- with a longer history, that accompanied the waves of urbanization. People were attracted to cities as places of hope, chances for a job and a better life, as places of prosperity. For many people, however, the promises of urbanization didn’t come true, and they became marginal citizens. Informal settlements, which I call “self-made cities” are, in fact, areas that are as viable as possible, with real economic and social potential, yet untapped”, said Sasha Tsenkova.

Sasha Tsenkova stressed the importance of understanding the phenomenon of informal settlements as an opportunity and not just as a challenge, evoking the three “P’s” (people, politics, places) in the sense that policies must be made for people to create resilient communities. As for Julien Damon, he highlighted the differences between the wealthy countries of Western Europe and the poor cities of the Global South in terms of coagulation and territorial development of cities. The scheme “planning-construction-living” of the West is opposed to the scheme “living-construction-planning” of the South, with serious consequences for housing.

“It would be extremely ambitious to talk about solutions that can simply be taken from one place to another. Two things are, however, extremely important: public attention for the recognition of the phenomenon, and public investment in programs of solutions to multiple forms of informal housing. There are enormous amounts of money meant to solve problems of communities like Roma people, it’s crazy that they are not currently directed to resolving housing problems”, underlined Julien Damon during the conference in Bucharest.

The intervention of Ashmet Elezovski, representative of the National Roma Centrum in Macedonia, highlighted how, in Macedonia, following the adoption of a law on the legalization of informal settlements, a local NGO supports people living in informal settlements in the process of legalizing their homes.

“It was extremely important to add this issue on the political agenda in Macedonia. Our campaign started in 2005 and consisted, on the one hand, in concerted actions of advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns by a group of NGOs, and, on the other hand, in 2010, in a direct work with the beneficiaries, in order to inform and organize them, so that the law on the legalization of informal infrastructures can have the desired effect among the categories most affected by informality”, said Ashemt Elezovski.

II. Moderated discussion – National context and issue

Panel guests

  • Constantin Bobaru, Mayor of Bumbești-Jiu
  • Mariana Buceanu, National Roma Agency
  • Bianca Ciocan, Adviser to the General Secretariat of the Government
  • Petre Florin Manole, Deputy
  • Eugenia Sas, National Agency of Cadastre and Real Estate Advertising
  • Daniel Vâlceanu, Ministery of Regional Development and Public Administration
  • Flori Nica, GAL Reșița

III. Thematic working groups

  • Legislation
  • Urban restructuring and planning
  • Integrated approach, complementary measures
  • Possible European and national funding towards disadvantaged communities – limits and opportunities

The recommendations discussed in the working groups are available here. (in Romanian)

The event also provided an opportunity to form an inter-institutional working group on informal housing in Romania, a need identified by most of the participants and included on the agenda of institutions such as the National Agency for Roma or the General Secretariat of the Government.

The international conference, organized by PACT Foundation, MKBT: Make Better, GAL Resita, Asociatia DEP Bumbesti-Jiu, Grupul de Initativa Valea Corbului is part of the project No man’s land: informal housing in Roma communities- recognition, responsibilities and common solutions, which aims to document the phenomenon of informal housing in Romania, its proportions and its effects; to raise awareness about this phenomenon; and to explore possible normative and operational solutions, in order to improve living conditions in informal settlements, as well as to limit the phenomenon.

The event benefited from the support of the French Embassy in Romania and Habitat for Humanity Romania (through the project Build Solid Ground , financed by the European Union).

Thank you!

Pictures from the event

photo: Andrei Dudea


On 6th of July, at Apollo 111, we are organizing the event Tackling informal settlements – practices and policies dealing with housing informality, whose aim is to share best practices and to facilitate dialogue and working together for drafting policies and programs on the topic of informal setttlements. Participants will be representatives of national and local public authorities, experts, NGOs, researchers who are working in this area or on other relevant fields.

Sasha Tsenkova, professor at University of Calgary (Canada), will also attend the event. Sasha Tshenkova published numerous studies on urban planning for the World Bank, Council of Europe and UN. She has published more than 25 books, including “SELF-MADE CITIES. In Search of Sustainable Solutions for Informal Settlements in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Region” (2009), one of the most important academic paper on informal settlements.


 On March 19, at the ARCUB (Arcelor Hall) the SOS debate took place: Informal living in Romania. The debate was organized by MKBT: Make Better, PACT Foundation, GAL Reșița, DEP Bumbești Jiu Association and Valea Corbului Initiative Group and took place at the One World Romania Festival 2018. Along with the debate, the photo exhibition was inaugurated ” No Man’s Land ”(March 15-26, 2018), which illustrates, through the eyes of photographers Bogdan Dincă and George Popescu from Documentaria.ro, the daily realities of informal settlements. The debate, moderated by Anamaria Vrabie (MKBT), had as guests: Alina Tudor (ENEL), Marius Păcuraru (Valea Corbului Initiative Group), Mirela Dima (CEZ Romania), Nicoleta Chiriță (Habitat for Humanity), Rodica Păun ( Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, Buctefan Buciuc (BCR), Bogdan Suditu (MKBT) and Ioana Petrache (PACT Foundation). 

During the debate several issues were raised: the fact that informal settlements designate a variety of situations, thus requiring differentiated approaches; the magnitude of the phenomenon and the continuous growth, determined also by a non-acceptance on the part of the decision-makers and the enabled institutions. That is why communication and working with local public authorities, as well as the use of inspiration for success models in other countries – for example, the case of Macedonia, where Habitat for Humanity provided technical assistance and micro-financing for improvement.

An example of good practice is also a recent intervention in the Bucharest neighborhood of Ferentari, where Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and ENEL worked in partnership to improve the access to electricity of the inhabitants of the area. The mediator who facilitated the relationship between the community and the electricity supplier and who supported the people in the bureaucratic endeavors was extremely important.

The debate ended by stressing the importance of involving directly affected people in choosing solutions that can only be tailored to each community.

You can view the recording of the debate here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZGR2BS9hok

The conclusions of the debate can be found HERE.


On March 19, we invite you to the SOS debate: Informal living in Romania, within the festival of the International Documentary and Human Rights Festival One World Romania, to discuss, together with our guests, about the problems associated with informal living and the steps needed to solve them.

In the same space, between March 15 and 26, you can visit the photo exhibition „No Man’s Land”. The exhibition illustrates the daily realities of three communities of informal settlements (Reșița, Valea Corbului and Bumbești-Jiu), taken by Bogdan Dinca and George Popescu from Documentaria.ro.

Here you can find more details about events.


 On October 2, 2017, World Habitat Day was celebrated. The event takes place every year, in the first month of October, and was instituted by the UN in 1985, with the aim of paying attention to the fundamental right to adequate housing. The UN’s intention is also to „remember that each of us has the power and responsibility to decide what our cities and villages will have in the future.” PACT Foundation, MKBT Association – Make Better, Valea Corbului Initiative Group, DEP Bumbești Jiu and GAL Reșița celebrated the World Day of Housing in Bumbești Jiu, as part of the „No man’s land” project: Informal living in Roma communities – recognition responsibility and common solutions. The project, which runs between August 2017 and January 2019, aims to document the informal housing in Romania, as well as to propose solutions aimed at responding to the various informality situations encountered in the field. Bumbești-Jiu was chosen as a place of celebration, since the DEP – Bumbești – Jiu organization is a partner in the project. In addition, two situations have been identified in the city of Jiul defile that meet the criteria for defining informal settlements:

  • Tetila, an informal dwelling area of the type „slum” developed on the outskirts of the locality
  • ICH Colony, informal dwelling within the former workers’ colonies.

Moreover, the meeting ended with a working visit to Tetila, where the main problems were identified: lack of clarity regarding the owner / owners of the land on which houses were built and / or lack of building permits.

The celebration of World Housing Day was also the occasion for the first joint meeting of the partners in the No Man’s Land project. During the working meeting, it was agreed on the two definitions of informal settlements, which will be used in the project:

  • Illegal residential formations lacking basic infrastructure, security of possession, adequate housing conditions, etc. (UNECE, 200
  • Residential formations usually developed on the outskirts of urban or rural settlements, where land use has an illegal or legal status, and the constructions are unauthorized or partially comply with the permits obtained, which lack access to the basic technical-urban infrastructure, adequate housing conditions, etc. ., which endanger the safety and health of the resident population (Suditu & Vâlceanu, 2013).

Also, during the working meeting, there was also discussed the presentation of a legislative proposal, as well as the possible risks of the actions, such as the risk of creating wrong expectations or unfounded fears about our efforts among people from informal settlements, risk which can be minimized through clear communication of the initiative. The participants, however, were optimistic about the success of a legislative proposal that would offer solutions for solving the different situations of informal settlements.