Following our notifications in July 2021, the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca decided to postpone the eviction of Szabo Iosif and his family from a modular house in Pata Rât. The City Hall told all the institutions and organizations we contacted that a closer social investigation into the family's situation revealed the necessity to postpone the eviction. Regretfully, however, the chain of evictions initiated by the same City Hall continues.
The alarming situation of the informal settlement on Stephenson street no. 15
This time we are asking for your support on behalf of 7 families (19 people), who received a notice on 01.09.2021, through which they are being summoned to “dismantle the illegal constructions on the western side of the house in Cluj-Napoca, Stephenson street nr. 15, in front of apt. no 1” in 2 days’ time (until 03.09.2021). In case of non-compliance, a bailiff accompanied by the SMZ IMPEX SRL firm will arrive on the 3rd of September at the location to “make the technical measurements necessary for implementing the enforceable title”, “represented by Civil Sentence no. 5173/2014, pronounced by the Cluj-Napoca Courthouse in the 5173/2014 case.” Apart from this document, the people addressed did not receive any proposed solution for their situation from the City Hall.
Please intervene with the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca, represented by mayor Emil Boc, by requesting the postponement of the demolition until proper alternative housing solutions are found for the 7 families who face homelessness if the enforced legal procedures continue. The argument that this intervention does not constitute an eviction, but merely the demolishing of an informal construction is false. The buildings in question are not empty, they are currently inhabited by 19 people, of whom 9 are children under 18 years old and one is a person with disabilities.
By carrying on the proposed demolition, which leaves the people mentioned above with no alternative housing options, the Cluj-Napoca City Hall infringes on many national and international legal regulations, an event which cannot be overlooked by any local, national, or international organization or institution.
Neglect of the fact that 19 people live in the buildings that the City Hall wants to demolish comes not from a lack of knowledge about this particular situation. Based on our actions, we know of at least one document from 2016 (Zonal document on the housing situation on Stephenson Street no. 15. History, housing situation, and requests from tenants). At that time, City Hall replied that it will take the necessary steps to solve the housing problems summed up in the letter below.
Nevertheless, after 5 years, the City Hall does not provide active, feasible solutions, but the “solution” of demolition, neglecting the fact that this translates into the forced eviction of those who live in these settlements. Further on, we sum up their history of living on Stephenson nr. 15.
A short history of the housing situation on Stephenson street
There is a building consisting of five apartments on Stephenson George street no. 15. The families started living here at the end of the 1970s, when the (currently) eldest members were employees of the State Trust for Constructions, being, therefore, tenants of the respective building. Construction workers took part in the construction of many blocks of flats in Cluj-Napoca before 1990, their labor was highly valued, as it still is today in the case of those who continue to work in construction.
After 1990, once buying the apartments became an option and in line with their material possibilities, two of the families bought the apartments in which they had been tenants. Other two apartments are in different stages of the acquisition process. Given that the families have extended and the health issues that some of their members suffered from, and also given the lack of access to social housing, between 1995-2007 many young families had no other option but to extend informal lodgings around the old, initial house. All this happened under the conditions in which purchasing or renting housing from the market became impossible for people with low income because of the prohibitive prices.
Housing insecurity entrenched by the causes mentioned above has worsened dramatically since 2013, and also since real estate developers started showing interest in this land. Neighbors’ complaints also started emerging at this time. In the context of these complaints, the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca initiated a process of identifying and monitoring the families, starting with fining one of the families in the old house for the illegal construction of an annexed building (signed statement no. 183, issued in 27.09.2010). A few days after, because of the severe health problems and the stressful situation generated by the fine, the person in the cause died. This tragic event prolonged the legal action initiated by the City Hall against those who built the annex without proper authorization (file nr.25071/211/2012), and Civil Sentence no. 678/A/2014 stood on the side of the City Hall. As a result, the families living in the annex in front of apt. 1, on the western side of the whole house, should have demolished their lodgings. However, at the time these people lacked access to alternative housing options, as they continue to do today, which means that dismantling the informal annex would push them into homelessness.
What actions should have the local authorities taken, at least since 2019?
On the 26th of July 2019, Law no. 151 from 24th of July 2019 was published in addition to Law no. 350/2001 regarding urbanism and spatial planning. A year later, Order no. 3.494 from 27th July 2020 for the amendment and completion of the Methodological Norms for the Application of Law no. 350/2001 on urbanism and spatial planning, was also published in “Monitorul Oficial” of Romania.
The legal regulations above define an informal settlement as a grouping of minimum 3 units used for housing purposes, built spontaneously, inhabited by people or families who are part of vulnerable groups as defined by the Law of Social Assistance no. 292/211, and who do not have any legal rights upon the homes they inhabit. The case on Stephenson Street no. 15 fits this definition, therefore here we are faced with an informal settlement.
Further, the regulations above establish the following obligations that the Mayor of the Cluj-Napoca Municipality should have fulfilled since then in relation to such an informal settlement:
- they should have identified the lands within their administrative territory where informal housing has been built, including the one on Stephenson Street no. 15;
- they should have created and updated the database on the number of people living in informal settlements, i.e. on Stephenson Street no. 15;
- they should have informed the residents of informal settlements about the provisions of this law and initiated a process of consultation and participatory planning in order to identify solutions tailored to the specifics of the informal settlement and to community needs, including on Stephenson Street no. 15;
- they should have initiated and coordinated the necessary steps to identify the legal and economic status of the lands occupied by informal settlements and to regulate them, including on Stephenson Street no. 15;
- if the regulation requires the partial or total dismantling of the respective informal settlements (which, as shown in the demolition decision, is the case of the informal settlement on Stephenson Street no. 15), the authorities should have ensured the relocation of their inhabitants, either by providing social housing or by supporting the reconstruction of housing on properly equipped land (identified and made available by local public administration authorities, in accordance with the law); furthermore, they should have informed, consulted and obtained approval from the residents in relocation situations in advance.
Based on the notification received by the 7 families on Stephenson Street no. 15, apt. 1, from the bailiff on September the 1st 2021, we can state that the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca:
- has not done any of the above, but simply wants to demolish the informal buildings without worrying about the fate of the people who will be forcibly evicted as a direct result of the demolition;
- should immediately notify the bailiff in order to stop the proceedings initiated for the purpose of demolishing the informal buildings;
- should urgently start providing adequate social housing for people who can no longer live in those inadequate and unsafe conditions.
We appeal to you to send these requests to the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca as soon as possible, i.e. tomorrow, September the 2nd so that the local authorities have time to notify the bailiff about the ceasing of the proceedings.