Interview With István Hunyadi, RE-BLOCK, Budapest

Mariann Majorné Venn

By Mariann Majorné Venn, on February 25th, 2014

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The 18th district of Budapest started to built up the RE-Block (REviving high-rise Blocks for cohesive and green neighborhoods) network based on the need to find new tools and solutions to give a boost to rehabilitate the “Havanna” high-rise block building estate, a deprived urban area situated at the outskirts of the 18th district of Budapest. The population of the district is around 100,000 and the “Havanna” housing estate is home to a population of more than 17,000 people with low income and social status. István Hunyadi is in charge of the lead partnership of the RE-Block project for the 18th district of Budapest. Here he shares his experiences with the different aspects of an URBACT Project.

Building and Managing a Transnational Network

“I can honestly say the support of the RE-BLOCK project is a great honour for the local government of District Pestszentlőrinc – Pestszentimre – it is not just the only project with Hungarian but also the only one with Central-East European leadership.  The issue selected for the project is rather difficult and it wasn’t at all easy to find appropriate partners, though problems of high density housing estates have to be faced by several cities. Our colleagues at the local government have contributed to the implementation of several transnational projects, but this is the first with English as working language. As lead partner, we are responsible for the elaboration of several documents, reports, agreements and information sheets, and this work is difficult to integrate into our usual work procedures. The greatest professional efforts have been required for the understanding and elaboration of legal documents. We’ve learnt the important lesson that if we want to get involved in the European network, we must out greater energy to foreign language training and motivation to use them. But we have developed excellent relations with a management consultancy, and thus the reporting and accounting of the first phase and the start of the second phase have been undertaken without difficulties.”

Cooperation with the 10 Partner Cities: “There is Something to Learn from Everyone.”

“The theme of the project is at the forefront of interest of the leaders and councillors of the local government.  We must find solution for several acute problems and want to improve the living conditions of the residents of Havanna housing estate in several respects, and therefore we expect a great deal from the cooperation with the partner cities! We want to learn about several useful practices of the physical and social improvement of housing estates. There’s something to learn from everyone. Social issues encountered in the East-European partners are similar to ours, so we can search for common solutions for the social issues, while the experience of the West-European partners is useful when it comes to the improvement of the built and natural environments.”

Building an Inclusive Local Support Group can be a Challenging Task

“It is not easy to organize a local support group. Our Mayor appointed his deputy responsible for social issues to lead the group, so that this person can have firsthand experience of the group work and give them efficient support. In the Havanna housing estate, they are several local government institutions. Their heads and employees are in close contact with the residents, so the directors of several social and cultural institutions and schools have been invited to take part in the work of the support group. It also seemed logical to involve experts in social and technological sphere, who have experience in local authority activities and therefore can help to identify and implement tasks, and the role of civil organisations as well as churches is also important. Finally, contribution is expected of the representatives of housing associations. But we’re also aware of the fact that we have to contact many more people who have something to say about the issues of the housing estate.”

Local Action Plan: “The Most Important Issue is Feasibility.”

“We expect more of the local action plan than the compilation of experience and potential ways of action gained in the implementation of the project: we hope that the approved action plan will be agreed upon and adopted by the majority of the inhabitants of the housing estate and by the local government.  It must reflect upon the common experience which we collect in the partner cities with the help of the “knowledge ambassadors” and the experts of the URBACT program. The most important issue is feasibility. Actions which promise concrete results are interesting for us.  We hope that the public image of the housing estate will improve in the short term, and that,  through the active cooperation of the residents and the local authority,  a better social and physical environment will be created.”

One Asset to Build upon to Restaure Community Life in Havanna: the KondorBéla Community Center

“The community centre is the cultural focus of the housing estate, a space for cultural and community activities – it provides several cultural programs, such as out-of school voluntary arts and skills training, exercises for babies and young mothers, high quality presentations with recognized actors especially,  for those who do not have the opportunity to attend such programs elsewhere.  Innovative and popular art exhibitions are held every month to present artists connected to the district or living in the housing estate and spread information about their contribution. The exploration and cultivation of the local environmental, intellectual and artistic assets and traditions as well as local cultural activities and habits are priorities.
During school vacations, the centre organizes summer camps for local children, youth and families. The community development role of these camps and activities is great, and so is the cultural impact, helping the young generation to acquire new knowledge, experience and skills.  The centre also provides space for the activities of creative groups and workshops. Especially important is their activity fostering intellectual gifts and talents, cultural, artistic and social activities of children and youth, as well as special help to the deprived groups.”

Interview by Mariann Major Vén, Lechner Lajos Knowledge Center, URBACT National Dissemination Point in Hungary

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