Civil wars and the subsequent emergence of newly independent states in the Balkans region led to the displacement and impoverishment of thousands of people in Serbia and Montenegro. In 2003, there were about 279,000 refugees in Serbia, mainly from Bosnia and Croatia, and 205,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Kosovo and Metohija.
This Programme aims at supporting resettlement and integration of refugees in Serbia and Montenegro by combining direct delivery of housing units and social integration schemes with policy development, institutional building and other capacity-building activities in the areas of social housing and strategic planning, with a view to ensure future scaling-up and sustainability. It includes the following main components:
- To provide some 670 new dwellings for 3,000 of the most vulnerable refugees;
- To build institutional capacities for social housing development at national and municipal levels;
- To assist in the social and economic integration of refugees and displaced people in seven municipalities; and
- To help boost the capacity of local governments in their planning and municipal information systems.
Activities will be implemented over a three-year period in the municipalities of Cacak, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Nis, Pancevo, Stara Pazova and Valjevo and at central government level. Activities include:
- Providing financial and technical support to beneficiary municipalities for direct delivery of 670 sustainable housing solutions for refugees and other vulnerable households and to the Serbian Government and municipalities to establish appropriate instruments and policies in the social housing sector;
- Providing financial and technical support to municipalities and their local partners to facilitate integration of vulnerable populations in local labour markets, to improve civic behaviour and to develop appropriate social schemes; and
- Assisting municipalities to introduce modern instruments for local development strategic planning.
- The Governments of Italy and Serbia have approved the project document and detailed activities and implementation arrangements have been formulated during the six-month preparatory phase;
- A detailed work-plan for the implementation phase has been approved by a steering committee;
- Cooperation agreements have been signed with municipalities and other implementing partners;
- Six municipal housing agencies or similar institutional arrangements have been established;
- Seven municipal steering committees and selection committees have been established;
- A law on support to social housing has been approved to determine the role of the Republic of Serbia in improving access to decent housing for households that cannot fulfil their needs through free market mechanisms. The law establishes the National Housing Fund;
- A "quick start" initiative was launched in two municipalities to begin work on the first building sites beginning in November 2004.
- Support provided for preparing the housing law and establishing the National Housing Fund has contributed to raising general awareness on social housing issues, culminating in a political commitment to allocate a budget and offer channels for national and international resource mobilization to this sector in 2005.
- Support provided to establishment of municipal housing agencies has already contributed to increasing local capacities to formulate and implement housing projects.