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András Vigvári

junior research fellow

Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences


Topic: The “ruralisation” of housing crisis in Hungary: the transformation of allotment gardens

Key words: housing mobility, rural-urban fringes, transformation of rural areas


This paper concerns the ruralisation of housing crisis throughout the transformation of allotment gardens. Peri-urban rural fringes have historically played a key role at uneven spatial development throughout the social history of Hungary. These areas have traditionally fulfilled an intermediary role in demographic flows between urban-rural developmental hierarchies shaping an affordable housing close to the urban core areas. The housing usage of allotment gardens is the latest phenomenon of spatial exclusion and housing crisis in the peri urban areas showing the “ruralisation” of housing exclusion after the 1990s transformation.

Hungarian allotment gardens (“zártkert”) are situated outside of the administrative border of the city therefore these are registered agricultural but not residential areas. One consequence of their remoteness is that these gardens are usually lacking communal services, e.g. public utilities are not connected and the post service does not reach out to them either. During state socialism these garden plots served as mixed farming and recreational spaces. However, after the regime change in 1989, these recreational activities and agricultural functions declined and these spaces gave housing function because of their still optimal geographical proximity to the city and the cheap dwellings available there.
In my paper I give a brief overview of the most important theoretical points of my anthropological investigation that was based on my field work experience at an eastern suburban neighbourhood in Budapest. The focus of my research was to understand how the former rural allotment gardens have been transformed after the post-socialist transformation in Hungary and what kind of new post-rural functions appeared since the regime change there. My research question is in correspondence with the broader theoretical framework of how residential areas in post-socialist urban centres have been shaped in and around the city and how excluded people shaped the former rural areas on the peri urban edges into habitable places.

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