Interview by Gergana Mancheva with Mincho Benov, national director of Habitat Bulgaria, Radio Bulgaria – BNR. Photo: BGNES
Even during a crisis, when Bulgarians have limited their spending to basic things like food, fuel and heating, interest in new housing has not dropped. However, most of the newly built homes remain uninhabited for a long time. The reason is that many homeowners simply invest their savings in property as an alternative to no-interest bank deposits. This leads to the paradox that despite the great growth of construction, many Bulgarians continue to live in overcrowded homes and usually do not invest in energy efficiency improvements.
Most households do not have a steady income and cannot afford a loan to buy a new home. According to Eurostat, over 41% of Bulgarians live in overcrowded homes. In comparison, the EU average is 17 percent.
The problem with overcrowded housing is even more noticeable in our cities, where 50 percent live in a limited space, according to a study by Habitat Bulgaria NGO. Recently, representatives of the Bulgarian representation of the organization Habitat for Humanity, which helps millions of people to improve their living conditions, joined the European Housing Forum, dedicated to the problems caused by the Covid crisis and global climate change.
“The pandemic has shown how important housing is in order to live a fulfilling life and in order for children to be able to study at home,” Mincho Benov, national director of Habitat Bulgaria said.
“Housing in Bulgaria usually offers twice as less living space in comparison to Western European countries and overcrowding makes things even worse. Imagine how a child could study in an overcrowded home. On the other hand, this situation shows another problem – the energy poverty of thousands of Bulgarian households. According to estimates of the institutions that calculate such indices, this country falls into the category of extreme energy poverty. I mention the connection with the pandemic because children are at home all day and the households have to be heated all the time. Elderly people, who used to go to public places to stay warm and reduce their heating costs, could not continue to do so because of the lock-downs.”
On the other hand, unoccupied housing stock in this country is an old and serious problem. More than 30% of the habitable homes in Bulgaria are deserted. “This is due to the lack of maintenance of the buildings and this way a huge resource is lost. With good management it could help solve a number of issues,” Mincho Benov says.
“The need for renovation of the housing stock is urgent. When it comes to total energy consumption, homes have a share of well over 40% and this is a major factor when it comes to clean air, carbon emissions, etc. In addition, improving the energy efficiency of homes is a way for households experiencing energy poverty to reduce their heating costs. The problem is not related just to segregated neighborhoods that burn tires, textiles, shoes and whatever they find, but it is a problem for everyone who use wood for heating. We wonder why heating subsidies go for the purchase of coal and wood. Is there nothing else that can be applied more rationally? Why do we keep investing in air pollution every year through social assistance?”
English text: Alexander Markov
Read more: Bulgarian homes – often overcrowded, energy inefficient and too expensive
Listen the interview here: Жилището на българина – често пренаселено, енергийно неефективно и непосилно скъпо