Hundreds of thousands of people in Bulgaria today live in conditions far below the minimum standards for housing. Nearly 395,000 people live with three or more other people in a room, in difficult conditions, often in poorly constructed, hand-built houses. Poor housing conditions lead to social and economic isolation of residents. The state and municipalities must devote resources to addressing these problems, and there is an urgent need to take a package of measures to guarantee the right to a decent life for these people.
These are part of the findings of Habitat Bulgaria, a participant in Habitat for Humanity ‘s global Solid Ground, advocacy campaign, on access to housing and housing rights. As part of the campaign, the organization today came up with a proposal for a package of government measures aimed at improving housing conditions in the country, in line with the UN’s New Agenda entitled Transforming Our World: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, adopted by 193 countries, incl. and Bulgaria on September 25, 2015, at the UN General Assembly.
The Solid Ground project is in line with the eleventh Global Sustainable Development Goal – SDG 11 “Transforming Cities and Towns into Inclusive, Safe, Stable and Sustainable Centers”, and in particular the first of its 10 specific goals: “By 2030, to ensure that everyone has access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and renovation of poor neighborhoods.”
The Bulgarian office of the global organization Habitat for Humanity has announced measures to improve the country’s living conditions in accordance with the new UN Global Sustainable Development Goals:
● In the State Budget Act:
Tens of thousands of people in Bulgaria live in extremely poor technical and hygienic homes, without running water and sanitary facilities, with poor street network and infrastructure. Poor housing conditions cause serious problems for people in other areas of life, such as education, employment and healthcare. There are hundreds of thousands of people in need of social housing in Bulgaria. At the same time, the implementation of the housing improvement measures in the Action Plan of the National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria for Roma Integration (2012-2020) is not tied to financial resources, except for the funds provided under Operational Program “Regions for Growth” 2014-2020 to build only about 500 social housing units across the country.
Habitat Bulgaria proposes in the State Budget Law of the Republic of Bulgaria for 2018 to earmark funds for the implementation of different packages of measures from the Action Plan to the National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria for Roma Integration, priority Housing Conditions.
● In the Municipal Property Act:
Access to social housing is not regulated by Bulgarian law and there are no responsibilities assigned to the state or municipalities. The latter have neither the legal obligation nor the resources to respond to the need for social housing. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the right to social assistance and housing assistance, designed to ensure the decent living of all in need, is recognized and respected.
Habitat Bulgaria proposes to introduce in the Municipal Property Act two categories: “acute/ urgent housing need”, as well as “social housing” to enable the right of access to housing at the local level.
● In the Rules for Implementation of the Social Assistance Act:
Very often, families in need of housing cannot overcome the bureaucratic barriers and many are not registered at all in the municipal filings. On the other hand, the process of legal housing construction is too complex and time-consuming, even for homes up to 50 square meters.
Habitat Bulgaria proposes that in the Rules for Implementation of the Law on Social Assistance, social services should be supplemented with a new service – housing mediator/ assistant. The role of the housing mediator is to advise and support families in the process of issuing a certificate for tolerable construction; design, approval and construction of legal housing; applying for accommodation in municipal housing; improving the safety of homes or addressing other ongoing environmental problems.
“In order to achieve the European Union’s 2020 policy goals – Economic Stability, Combating Climate Change and Social Inclusion, as well as the objectives of the Republic of Bulgaria set out in the National Development Program” Bulgaria 2020, housing should be a priority”, said Mincho Benov, National Director of Habitat Bulgaria.
In order to promote the Solid Ground campaign locally and gain additional support, Habitat Bulgaria invited three contemporary Bulgarian artists to “translate” into the language of art the idea of adequate housing as a basic human right. The campaign is partnered with the global social media platform Fine Acts.
About Solid Ground:
Habitat for Humanity launched Solid Ground, a global advocacy campaign to improve access to land for shelter. The four-year campaign, which committed to influencing land policies and systems, resulted in more than 3 million people with increased access to safe and secure land in over 40 countries around the world.