The transition processes in the Republic of Macedonia has prompted changes in the housing sphere as well. The 1998 Housing Law (Official Gazette of RM no.21), has abolished the category of social housing and has introduced a new housing system as an economic category. The legislative housing framework in Macedonia recognizes six categories of people without housing as potential beneficiaries of the social housing: children without parents or parental care; beneficiaries of social and regular financial support; people struck by elementary– natural disasters; people with disabilities and people in need of assistance and care by other people; socially endangered Roma community members, and single mothers with underage children19.
According to data of the National Housing Strategy (2007-2012), the Republic of Macedonia has a surplus of residential space of some 130.000 residential units, which indicates that many families own more than one apartment, whereas a large number of “homeless families“ have settled in rural areas, in residential facilities or weekend-houses, deserted as a result of the increased migration to the urban areas. The state of these rural residential facilities is predominantly poor, i.e. there are no basic living conditions (electricity, water, sewerage, roads, schools, ambulances, postal offices, organized traffic). There are areas with solid infrastructure, however primarily used as recreational settlements.
The Strategy uses the terms appropriate and minimal housing, however these are not clearly defined. The term appropriate housing seeks to denote standardized housing, one that is accepted by the societal norms as such, i.e. general housing standards of the society. The definition of this category does not refer only to the residential premises and its refurbishment, but also to legal housing issues. A precise definition of this category is essential to the governing of the subject-matter with regulation related to construction of new residential buildings (construction, maintenance and use).
The minimal housing category is more restrictive in the determination of the level of standards defined by the society as the lowest level of housing standards and it encompasses the minimal physical and legal housing standards for the beneficiaries. One of the strategic goals of the National Strategy on Reducing Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010-2020) is the achievement of standardized and harmonic housing for the categories of citizens which face housing exclusion: children without parents or parental care, beneficiaries of social and regular financial support, people with disabilities and people in need of assistance and care by other people, socially endangered Roma community members and single mothers with underage children. This strategic goal envisages the achievement of the following results:
- Reduced degree of substandard housing conditions expressed through lack of communal sockets and other infrastructure or insecure construction of poor quality;
- Reduced degree of overcrowded homes, expressed in under-average usable residential area per family member;
- Eradicated spatial segregation of ethnic and other types of communities as a result of the existent cultural and social matrixes;
- Reduced risk of loss of the tenancy status due to legal insecurity as a result of a change or consistent implementation of the legislation in the field of construction and spatial and urban planning.
However, of note is that the part of the National Strategy which focuses on social protection, which calls on to the creation of a social protection system for the poorest citizens, as well as providing access to non-institutional and institutional forms of protection and capacity building of the social protection system, focuses on the elderly people, children without parents and parental care and victims of domestic violence, whereas the homeless people are not singled out as a specific category.
In the Poverty Reduction Strategy in Republic of Macedonia, as part of overcoming the problem of poverty in substandard conditions, the following measures have been established: finalization of the infrastructure (traffic and communal) in unplanned settlements, provision of urban services and legalization of eligible objects.
Therefore, the fulfillment of the minimal spatial conditions, refurbishment of the apartments with basic communal infrastructure (electricity, water, sewerage) and traffic connectivity between the home, the settlement and the city – as well as the legal ownership of the home or tenancy rights comprise the basic minimal preconditions for humane living.
In 2007, the Action Plan for implementation of the Strategy for Housing in Republic of Macedonia (2007-2012) envisaged the adoption of the Law on Social Housing, before September 2008, to regulate the social housing and the exercising of the right to social housing of the vulnerable groups. This Law has not yet been adopted; however the Strategy conceptually does not foresee new orientation and structural reforms towards securing systemic mechanisms that would enhance the social housing funds in Macedonia (Dimitrijoska, 2011).