The government has revealed the conditions of and the municipalities entitled to the rural edition of home purchase subsidies (CSOK). Although more than 75% of the country’s settlements can apply, certain conditions are stricter, leading to criticism.
Rural CSOK was originally aimed at halting depopulation and improving the living conditions in rural areas. At first, it was announced that municipalities with a population of under 5,000 residents were eligible to apply. Contrary to the originally listed 1799 municipalities, according to the documentation, residents of 2486 different municipalities can now apply for the subsidy. Among them are many popular settlements close to Budapest, around Lake Balaton.
Villagers can apply for the same sum as originally: 600,000 forints (EUR 1,890) is available after one child, 2.6 million forints (EUR 8,200) after two and 10 million forints (EUR 31,530) after three. However, this time around, the support can also be used to buy, expand and revamp homes in the villages and homesteads affected.
While, contrary to the original, support can also be used for home expansion, renovation, or purchase of used property, the conditions are stricter: in addition to a certificate of good conduct, at least one parent must show proof of a continuous social security (TB) relationship lasting a minimum of one year. For the highest amount of subsidy, this limit is two years. In fact, both are double of the original CSOK’s limits. This means that the program excludes fostered workers and the unemployed.
Alpár Gyopáros, the man responsible for the program, told pro-government Magyar Nemzet that strict measures were indeed a priority. Government officials have often argued that the former Social Policy Allowance scheme (SZOCPOL) was impossible to pay back for many. And, in addition to many cases of abuse, the program generated a Huf 30 billion deficit for the State Treasury.
Targeted at the wealthy
Critics, however, claim that the program excludes those in need and benefits the wealthy. They also note that many smaller municipalities lack proper employment opportunities. In addition to the inadequate level of jobs and wages, many also lament the lack of plans aimed at tackling the poor level of services available, such as education, health care and infrastructure.
PolicyAgenda analyst Ambrus Kiss told leftwing daily Népszava that “these stricter conditions reinforce social inequality, and the legislation doesn’t deal with the issue of low wages at all, which is the biggest problem for people in depopulated villages.” Sociologist László Bass said, “The idea that children born into families suffering from unemployment – who apparently do not deserve better housing conditions – are less valuable than those born into families with steady jobs cannot be defended.