More than 60,000 Roma families in Romania currently live in informal settlements, which puts them constantly in danger. By informal housing/settlements we understand those residential settlements who are usually developed at the periphery of urban or rural settlements and where their inhabitants do not owe the land on which they have built their houses. There are no building permits, and the majority of the buildings are poorly constructed, with reused and/or bad quality materials. The access to basic utilities and to roads is reduced or even absent. In many cases, the houses are situated in areas of risk. Even accessing EU or national funding is a challenge given that there is no reference to informal housing in the national legislation. It is also because of this that authorities cannot make public investments in running water, sewage or electricity for these communities.
In this context, PACT, the association MakeBetter (MKBT), the Group for Initiative Valea Corbului, DEP Bumbesti Jiu and GAL Resita, decided to take action for the safety and for the health of the inhabitants in informal settlements.
More precisely, through the project “No Man’s Land”: Informal housing in Roma communities – recognition, accountability and shared solutions we intend to draw attention on these issues:
- Informal housing exists and it is growing; according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Regional Development in 2014, 38.7% of the responding municipalities reported having at least one informal settlement in their constituency.
- While funding exists, current programs and regulations do not address this problem or they don’t try to solve it;
- Generally, neither the relevant authorities, nor the people affected directly know the issues and they are not aware of how urgent is the need to find solutions.
On a practical level, the project “No man’s land” will document the phenomenon of informal housing in Romania, its scale and effects, with a special focus on Reșița, Bumbești-Jiu and Valea Corbului. At the same time, the project will research on the relevant legislation and policies, as well as on the obstacles in granting funding for informal settlements; will raise awareness about this situation among MPs, local authorities and the people affected directly. The project will also advocate for the introduction of the concept of informal housing in legislation, and for finding solutions at a local level; it will explore good practices together with international experts and it will propose relevant changes at the level of governmental and European financing.
This project is supported in part by a grant from the Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the Roma Initiatives of the Open Society Foundations.