Apartment Squatting and the Revolution

Although everyone had a constitutional right to an apartment under the dictatorship, many people still did not receive one from the state. Despite handing in their applications, there simply weren’t enough apartments to go around.

During the 1956 Revolution, however, some people nonetheless found a novel solution to this problem by occupying unfinished apartments. What this meant is that people went to the state-constructed buildings that were only partially complete and then selected an apartment that they marked with a lock, thereby making it their own. As Mária recalled: “We heard that you could occupy an apartment, and that everyone was doing it. I went with my in-laws and we took a lock with us. We occupied a ground-floor apartment that already contained a ceramic furnace, but it still did not have a toilet or windows yet. We then had the windows made in a factory and added the doors later. We also did not have any coal and therefore could not heat the place, but then saw that other people were bringing bags of stuff to their apartments. We asked them what they were doing and they said that they were bringing coal from the TÜZÉP (Fuel and Construction Company) grounds that were located next to the gas station nearby. So we went over there as well, and then stored the coal in the shared toilet. We had to pay a 600 forint fine for occupying the apartment, even though we had already submitted our application by that time. That was a great deal of money back then, about a month’s wages. Afterward, we had to relocate to a studio apartment in the same building.”

The half-completed apartments were made inhabitable through family and factory connections. They installed the symbolic locks together, connected the electricity and gas, and then had the doors and windows made in the factories.

Following the revolution, the new authorities did not know where to start with this situation, since tens of thousands had come into possession of apartments this way. The squatters were not evicted, although they did have to pay fines, which were as much as half their monthly wages.

With this action, however, the people solved their dilemmas and gained an apartment, which they sometimes later swapped for a different one. This was how many solved their housing problem.