Starting mid-October 2020, we’ve partnered Geospatial to develop a Map of Informal Settlements in Romania. This initiative if based on our finding that awareness on the scale of informal housing in Romania is very limited. As a consequence of this lack of ackwnowledgement, there is a lack of support programs and a limited practice of intervention mechanisms to help these communities. An inventory – made long ago by the Ministry of Development based on a questionnaire circulated in 2014 – counted over 64,000 households living in dwelling which lack legal forms (ie land titling, property act on the building, building authorization etc). However, we can certainly assess that this figure is underestimated compared to reality, given that just over half of surveyed local authorities responded to the survey.
The Map of Informal Settlements in Romania aims to be a civic initiative to collect data on informal settlements across the country and illustrate these on a dynamic map. We do not expect for our approach to be comprehensive. We rather wish to create a platform for crowdsourcing data contributions from NGOs, institutions and people concerned with informal housing, in order to illustrate the scale, diversity and distribution of these settlements. We also see it as an opportunity to get to know other stakeholders involved in addressing the challenges of informal housing in Romania in order to spark collaborative efforts and joined up initiatives.
Along with this map, we aim to publish an updated Guide on Interventions in Informal Settlements, starting from the content of our previous guide on this topic, but updated with the new legal provisions and methodological norms published across 2019-2020. We will also launch a podcast on housing issues, with a first episode dedicated to informal living. All these resources will be published by mid-December 2020 – follow our website and social media for updates! This work is part of the project titled „Living in shacks: no electricity, no water, no titling”, implemented with the financial support of the Fund for Civic Innovation, a program developed by the Foundation for Civil Society Development of (www.inovarecivica.fdsc.ro). The 2020 call for projects was launched with the support of Enel Romania.
The law by which the informal settlements will be identified and can be legalized in Romania was promulgated on July 24, 2019 and became the Law no. 151/2019 for the completion of Law no. 350/2001 on spatial planning and urban planning.
The project “No man’s land” was a real leap in the awareness and inclusive addressing of the phenomenon of informal living in Romania. The subtitle „Recognition, responsibility and shared solutions” perfectly summarizes the effort of the project team (MKBT: Make Better, PACT Foundation, Valea Corbului Initiative Group, DEP Bumbești Jiu and GAL Resita).
The objective of the project was to promote a legal framework through which, together with the communities and local public authorities, we act for the safety of the dwelling and the health of the inhabitants in the informal settlements. To do this, I followed all the steps necessary for an integrated approach, documented, analyzed, consulted communities and public authorities, communicated publicly and organized conferences and workshops to raise awareness of the relevant actors about the „informal” reality in which at least 200,000 live. Romanian citizens. We made movies (thanks to the Vira Association), GIS maps (Mihai Tentis), photographs (George Popescu) and exhibitions (including inside the Romanian Parliament), all to bring the reality closer to public institutions and actors.
We are pleased to announce the publication of the law in the Official Gazette no.623 / July 26, 2019, but our work is not far from complete. The PACT Foundation and the MKBT will remain actors involved in solving the problem of informal housing in Romania. And the work in the field, for the application of the law, only now begins …
We thank the deputies Petre Florin Manole and Adrian Dohotaru who, on behalf of the 27 deputy signatories initiating the draft law, submitted the draft law in October 2018 and followed it through its parliamentary committees and chambers. Thanks to them, but also to Violet Alexandru and Borbély László, we were able to contact all the parliamentary groups, with whom we discussed the proposed normative solutions and the necessary measures to be instituted by law. The law was approved unanimously by the members of Parliament, after it was also debated within an inter-ministerial working group organized by the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration – Romania, to which representatives of professional associations and non-governmental organizations from the area!
Thank you to everyone involved![:]
On October 3rd, 2018, at the end of two years of research and awareness-raising, PACT Foundation and MKBT: Make Better, in partnership with GAL Reșița, DEP Bumbeşti-Jiu Association and Valea Corbului Initiative Group, announced the successful completion of the first step towards the recognition and regulation of informal settlements in Romania: the introduction in parliamentary procedure of the bill for amending and completing the Law no. 350/6 July 2001 on Spatial Planning and Urbanism or the Law of Informal Settlements. The legislative process of the bill can be tracked on the webpage of the Senate of Romania.
According to a survey conducted in the period 2013-2014, to which only 53% of the administrative units responded, there are 50,000 homes and about 64,000 families in Romania that are located in informal settlements, thus, over 200,000 citizens lacking permanent identity documents with zero or limited access to infrastructure and basic services, such as electricity or running water, education and health services. Romania is the only EU country that conditions identity (possession of definitive identity documents) on property (possession of property documents).
Until now, the relevant Romanian legislation made no reference to informal settlements and did not allow the regulation of the situation of their inhabitants. In the absence of legal provisions, the phenomenon risks expanding, making further interventions more difficult. The legislative draft, submitted on October 3 to the Senate Registry, proposes a definition of informal settlements, establishes the necessary framework for integrated public intervention for regulation, limiting the extension of informal settlements and improving the living and safety conditions of their inhabitants and clarifies the responsibilities of public authorities in coordinating activities of identification, regulation, monitoring and evaluation of informal settlements in Romania.
The project was submitted by the following initiators: Petre Florin Manole (PSD), Adrian Dohotaru (independent), Oana Bîzgan-Gayral (independent), Iulian Bulai (USR), Marian-Gheorghe Cucşa (ALDE), Nicușor Dan (PNL), Laura Mihaela Fulgeanu Moagher (PSD), Cristian Ghica (USR), Cristian Ghinea (USR), Nicolae Georgescu (PSD), Laurențiu Dan Leoreanu (PNL), Adrian Mocanu (ALDE) Eugen Neaţă (PSD), Daniela Oteşanu (PSD), Adrian Claudiu Prisnel (USR), Florina Presadă (USR), Andrei Pop (PSD), Claudiu-Florin Roman (PNL), Adrian Solomon (PSD), Daniel Suciu (PSD), Răzvan-Ion Ursu (PSD), Daniel Vasile (minorities), Nicolae Velcea (PSD), Dan Vîlceanu (PNL), Sergiu Cosmin Vlad (USR).
„Regulating informal settlements is a first step for the inclusion of informal communities and the chance for these citizens to enjoy equal rights and responsibilities. With employment security, access to infrastructure and services, the possibility of having a permanent identity document, they will be able to access public training programs, then to hire, pay taxes, and provide future generations with better living conditions and opportunities for a better future. The postponement of the establishment of a normative and operational framework for informal settlements does not solve the social and spatial problems they pose, but it emphasizes them. Security of tenure and adequate housing conditions underpin the whole process of social inclusion of these communities, which are now invisible to the Romanian state.” Bogdan Suditu, MKBT: Make Better, co-initiator of the No Man’s Land project.
„This week we celebrate two years since the idea of such a bill was born in consultations with one of the communities where informal housing is a real but legally unrecognized phenomenon. In such communities, living conditions are very harsh and no one can intervene – because they do not appear on official maps and their inhabitants are virtually invisible. They are part of a reality that, until now, was not legally recognizable. This bill is the key step in creating the framework for addressing the situation of informal settlements, together with public authorities and community members.” Gabriela Stanciu, Executive Director, PACT Foundation.
On September 12, the Housing Forum – Talks that build conference was held in Bucharest, an international conference on housing in Romania organized by Habitat for Humanity Romania. This edition was organized in partnership with CeRe: Resource Center for Public Participation, MKBT: Make Better and PACT Foundation. Housing Forum 2018 had guests Ashna S. Mathema – specialist in urban development at the World Bank, Gabriela Inchauste – economist, World Bank, Vladimir Macura – architect and expert in informal settlements, Magdalena Ruszkowska-Cieślak – national director, Habitat for Humanity Poland and Adrian Dan – sociologist, university lecturer at the University of Bucharest.
The event aimed to create the necessary framework for the debate to identify solutions and best practices in the field of housing for vulnerable groups affected by poor housing. Informal settlements and social housing policies represented the topics of discussion of the 2 workshops organized in the Housing Forum 2018
A number of 50 participants – international housing experts, representatives of civil society and local and central authorities – debated the situation of over 64,000 families living in informal settlements, without possession documents on the land they occupy, without access or with limited access to utilities and services, sometimes without identity documents and, on the other hand, the problem of social housing, in the context in which our country has the lowest stock in the European Union, estimated at 1.2%, compared to countries from The EU in which a quarter (Austria, UK, Spain) or even a third (Netherlands) of the available stock is allocated to social housing.
“We need to make housing issues a priority. Because decent housing means opportunities for development, safety and health, easier access to the labor market and education. At this year’s edition of the Housing Forum, we brought to the same table the civil society, the academic environment and the local and central authorities in trying to find housing solutions for the most vulnerable among us. Because, often, the most affected by poverty and poor living conditions are easier to ignore and excluded from the public decision ”, says Nicoleta Chiriță, Advocacy Manager Habitat for Humanity Romania.
The interest of so many participants in contributing ideas and proposals has once again shown that living in informal settlements is a reality that can no longer be neglected. Currently, at least 200,000 people live in these types of settlements, their number increasing. If we do not intervene, we risk the phenomenon becoming uncontrollable proportions, with consequences both on the health, safety and future of the people in these settlements as well as on the communities and cities. However, there are means of intervention and models of good practice that can guide us.
Therefore, we keep in mind the necessity of urgently creating a normative framework aimed at informal settlements, defining the term and identifying the main typologies that we have to consider when outlining appropriate action scenarios. „We start from the Housing Forum with clear principles that a Law on informal settlements should include: the intervention aims to identify and regulate informal settlements, depending on their typology, involving local and community actors in the whole process, establishing clear roles for each public authority involved at central and local level, as well as sanctions. In short, a „law with teeth” (with clear responsibilities and sanctions for all involved, authorities and residents), as one participant said, so that informal historical settlements become history and the phenomenon is discouraged in the future. ” , says Bogdan Suditu, MKBT: MakeBetter.
Representatives of several county and local institutions, parliamentarians, members of non-governmental organizations, and residents of communities faced with informal housing attended in two working meetings organized by PACT Foundation and MKBT: Make Better, alongside the project partners at the beginning of August at Corbului (Argeş) and Slatina (Olt).
The purpose of these local events was to provide the context for a necessary debate on informal housing between public actors with local and national responsibilities and to facilitate discussions on possible legislative and public policy solutions needed to solve instances of informal housing at the local level and to limit the spread of the phenomenon.
The purpose of the events organized under the title „Solutions for Informal Settlements in Romania”, was to provide the context for a debate on the need for a legislative initiative defining precisely informal housing in order to regulate it, respectively the need of a national program to stimulate local authorities towards appropriate administrative measures of every type of informal dwelling in Romania.
The events took place in Valea Corbului and Slatina, two relevant sites for discussing the peculiarities of informal living in Romania. In the Argeş village of Valea Corbului there are 350 informal houses, while in Slatina, 450 families live in informal settlements. At national level, over 64,000 families are in this situation without having the right to possess land and their homes, in some cases without identity papers, with limited access to basic utilities and road infrastructure.
Valea Corbului, 1 August 2018. The invitation was answered by representatives of the Romanian Parliament – deputy Petre Florin Manole, deputy Daniel Vasile, deputy Nicolae Georgescu – of some relevant county authorities – Argeş Territorial Arrangement and Urban Planning Department, Argeş General Directorate for People Evidence of Argeş, DGASPC Argeş, BJR Argeş – local authorities – Gheorghe Ionescu, Mayor of Călineşti Commune, Bogdan Oancea, Deputy Mayor of Bughea de Jos Commune, Iosif Daniel, Deputy Mayor of Aninoasa, Valentin Velcea, Calinesti local councilor, members of non-governmental organizations, as well as members of the Corbului Valley community and other Arges communities that face the phenomenon of informal housing.
Slatina, August 7, 2018. The list of participants included representatives of the county authorities – Urban Planning Service, Territorial Planning and Discipline in Construction; Public Administration Service; General Directorate for the People Evidence of Olt, OJCPI Olt, DGASPC Olt, BJR Olt and the Olt Water Management Service, as well as representatives of all services relevant to the topic in the Slatina City Hall. Other respondents of the invitation, deputy PSD Petre Florin Manole, county councilors – Mr. George Şofaru PSD, Ms. Gherghina Ionita ALDE, Mr. Gabriel Nicolescu PNL, local PNL councilor Mr. Ionuţ Comănescu, as well as Mr. Silviu Anton – President of USR Olt and Mr. Sandu Curt – President of the Pro-Europa Olt Roma Party Association.
Photos from the two local meetings:
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.
I. International Panel – Recognition, responsibility and solutions – good international practices
“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
III. Thematic working groups
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).
photo: Andrei Dudea
Welcome to „No Man’s Land” at Street Delivery 2018
Over 64,000 families live in informal settlements in Romania. Officially, these families do not exist. The Romanian legislation does not mention the term of informal settlement, nor does it contain any provision to address this type of housing or the serious problems that arise from it: lack of permanent identity documents, lack of access to basic services and utilities, unsafe living conditions.
Informal settlements are developed housing areas, usually on the outskirts of urban or rural settlements, where the inhabitants do not have ownership rights over their land and houses. Many of them appeared decades ago, and some are still expanding today. Whether they are improvised dwellings or solid constructions, houses in informal settlements endanger the safety and sometimes even the health of their inhabitants. Moreover, as long as they do not exist in the documents, it is impossible to solve this problem.
1 in 8 people in the world live in slums, according to UN-Habitat, totaling about 1 billion people in 2016.
Other states have started looking for solutions to this phenomenon or the problems associated with it. In Romania, they are still invisible.
Why No Man’s Land, at Street Delivery?
The theme of Street Delivery 2018 is „smart cities”, and we believe that a smart city is a city that cares not only for landmarks, but also for marginal and / or marginalized places. But in order to do this, it is necessary to recognize them first.
That is why MKBT: Make Better and the PACT Foundation come to Street Delivery with a „stand” that illustrates the idea of informal housing and tells the story of people from informal settlements, which are invisible for the Romanian state and public opinion.
The action is part of the campaign to inform and raise awareness among the general public about the phenomenon of informal settlements in Romania. This campaign is carried out within the project „No man’s land: informal living in the Roma communities – recognition, responsibility and shared solutions”, a project that aims to build a favorable legislative, operational and financial framework for solving informal housing situations in Romania.
Stay close to follow our steps on this topic!
On October 3, 2016, World Housing Day was celebrated worldwide, an event organized by the General Assembly of the United Nations to remind year by year one of the goals of the HABITAT Agenda of 1976, namely to ensure a decent shelter for every inhabitant of the planet.
In the context of this event and of the urgency to bring into debate the problems of informal living in Romania and possible avenues for action on this topic, we organized a thematic visit-debate within the community of Valea Corbului – Călinești commune, Arges county.
Corbea Valley is an informal settlement of 280 houses and about 1,500 inhabitants, developed gradually over the last 70 years. Due to the cumulative problems, the Corbea Valley is one of the most representative settlements of this type, with an alarming number of dwellings built in the outskirts, without documents of ownership and in improper conditions.
Informal settlements are a social and spatial reality in Romania that should no longer be ignored. Their systematization and organization require coherent public policies and complementary interventions by the public authorities, both centrally and locally, with responsibilities in the field of housing, cadastre and territorial planning, education and social assistance.