Strengthening the decision making of homeowners has been a vital step in the evolution and development of democratic norms. Improving the rights of homeowners not only strengthens their abilities to hold institutions and property managers accountable, but it has consistently helped to develop a culture of democratic oversight, and is a small step towards normalizing citizen control of policies that reflect their needs. With political control lying where it does in Kyrgyzstan, any development that helps to establish a culture where citizens can influence and improve their lives and communities is a major success in bettering the Kyrgyz people’s relationship with power and self autonomy.
Historically, the quality of public housing in the Kyrgyz Republic has suffered when residents have been unable to exert sufficient influence over its maintenance, structural stability and general operations. Community development as a whole has also been negatively affected when residents are excluded from decision-making processes affecting their apartment buildings. A landmark piece of citizen-centric legislation, recently passed by the Kyrgyz Parliament and signed into law by the president, will now aim to empower citizens to take greater ownership of their housing. This legislation will allow for broader public participation in homeowners’ associations and introduce greater financial transparency and accountability measures for residents. Developed through a participatory and consultative process supported by NDI, these changes represent an important step forward in protecting the needs and safety of residents, who can now influence important decisions about their own homes. The development and passage of the legislation demonstrates the power of collaborative policymaking processes that incorporate broad public participation practices.
This policy initiative began in 2022 when a group of four single-mandate MPs, assisted by NDI, engaged citizens to identify key policy priorities for their local communities. During their discussions, one common issue centered around housing and living conditions. Citizens frequently commented on homeowners associations’ lack of transparency and accountability. Bearing these comments in mind and recognizing the urgent public need to pass new legislation that serves the interests of citizens, all four MPs, along with one Bishkek city councilor, built a cross-party coalition to advocate for the passage of this bill.
A local resident providing reasons why the bill has to be approved during a policy hearing in Bishkek
One of the single-mandate MPs told NDI that, “The bill now empowers residents to actively engage in those decision-making processes, allowing them to shape their own communities in a manner that would not have been possible without the participatory policy formulation process supported by NDI.” The MPs further highlighted how the new legislation, informed by the real concerns of real citizens, should now help to foster greater levels of transparency, clearer legislative guidelines, and a stronger sense of accountability, thereby strengthening the social fabric of local communities across the country. NDI’s main role in supporting these discussions was through coordinating between the MPs and local CSO Taza Shailoo, who organized these public hearings. Following the decision to pursue this policy, NDI further assisted the parliamentarians by providing legal expertise during the drafting of the legislation.
Individual homeowner associations will also be transformed by the legislation. Although each association will be subject to greater community oversight, in return they will become more relevant and impactful as effective local public platforms that support democratic values and encourage active citizen participation. While some existing associations have expressed concern about the changes, with increased accountability mechanisms in place to better ensure they treat residents fairly, these associations have the potential to play a pivotal role in providing residents with a strong voice in the collective decision-making processes related to their homes. By fostering a sense of local ownership and creating a discussion forum for a more engaged and active citizenry, such associations have the potential to create more vibrant local neighborhoods, better attuned and responsive to the aspirations and needs of local residents.
NDI's engagement in Kyrgyzstan is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Authors: Akjol Joroev (Parliamentary Program Officer), Nurlan Abdaliev (Parliamentary Program Officer), Elina Osmonalieva (Parliamentary Program Assistant), Marco D’Amato (Program Associate)
Photo Credits: Edir Bova
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.