Wienerberger and Habitat for Humanity International extend partnership to build and advocate for affordable homes

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ATLANTA (Feb. 28, 2022) — Wienerberger Group, a supplier of building materials and infrastructure solutions, today announced it is extending a decade-long partnership with Habitat for Humanity International for an additional three years. Wienerberger will donate bricks, roof tiles and piping materials for use in Habitat homes while also contributing its expertise and volunteers to help advance Habitat’s mission.

Through the partnership, Habitat will be able to build or improve 300 housing units in Bulgaria, Great Britain, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United States. Wienerberger and Habitat will also team up to advocate for better affordable housing and energy efficiency policies, including through national and regional housing forums.

Since launching their partnership in 2012, Wienerberger and Habitat have helped nearly 5,000 people access healthier, safer and more energy-efficient homes. Joint advocacy efforts have led to policy changes at the national and municipal level impacting more than 600,000 people.

“We continuously support a whole range of social projects and institutions in many countries Wienerberger operates in, by supplying not only building materials and infrastructure solutions but also our sustainable building know-how,” said Heimo Scheuch, chairman of the managing board of Wienerberger Group. “Our cooperation with Habitat for Humanity also contributes substantially toward raising the public’s awareness of the need for affordable housing, especially for marginalized people seeking to improve their living conditions.”

Along with providing affordable housing solutions, the partnership also will also support the construction or improvement of community centers, education centers and facilities for elderly residents and those living with a physical disability. This continues previous partnership work around social projects that, for example, supported construction of a hostel allowing family members to visit autistic relatives in Hungary.

“We are incredibly thankful for the donated materials from Wienerberger that will help lower the cost of housing for hundreds of families,” said Rick Hathaway, Habitat’s vice president for Europe and the Middle East. “But this partnership goes far beyond that, as Wienerberger will continue to help Habitat shine a light on large gaps in affordable housing while also applying its technical expertise to help low-income families and those facing special challenges related to housing.”

About Habitat for Humanity
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity found its earliest inspirations as a grassroots movement on an interracial community farm in south Georgia. Since its founding in 1976, the Christian housing organization has grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

About Wienerberger
The Wienerberger Group is an international provider of smart solutions for the entire building envelope and for infrastructure. Wienerberger, the world’s largest producer of bricks (Porotherm, Terca), also is a major producer of roof tiles (Koramic, Tondach), concrete pavers (Semmelrock), and pipe systems (Steinzeug-Keramo ceramic pipes and Pipelife plastic pipes). With its total of 215 production sites, the Wienerberger Group generated revenues of EUR 4.0 billion and sales growth of EUR 671 million in 2021.


Lets use biomass without cutting down forests

Снимка: WWF
News

The transition to a low-carbon economy can be achieved in a sustainable way.

Habitat Bulgaria joins the experts of WWF Bulgaria, starting joint work on a new project, guaranteeing the sustainable utilization of biomass without additional risks of deforestation. Through this project WWF is taking a step forward in its work on combating climate change. For years, the conservation organization has been promoting a gradual transition to a low-carbon economy, with biomass burning playing a major role. In it, WWF will work together with specialists from Romania and Hungary, as well as with partners from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv. Photo: WWF

Why is it important to find an alternative?
Existing energy production models present us with a number of risks, leading to compromises on air quality, destruction of natural habitats and growing energy poverty.

The problem of air pollution is becoming an increasingly sensitive topic in Bulgaria. Premature deaths in Bulgaria due to exposure to fine dust particles, nitrogen dioxide and ozone per 1 million inhabitants are among the highest in Central and Eastern Europe.

In addition to further deteriorating air quality, potentially increasing pressure on forests would mean a severe blow to biodiversity. According to the 2020 WWF Living Planet report „Jiva Planeta“ the world’s vertebrate population has shrunk by 68% in less than half a century. That is why the maintenance of living forests, which are an important part of terrestrial animal habitats, is particularly important.

At the same time, in rural areas and small towns in Bulgaria, the consumption of firewood is often combined with energy poverty. Surveys show that over 1/3 of Bulgarians cannot keep their homes warm enough.

“Forests have a positive effect on the climate by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. While the combustion of forest biomass can have a negative impact due to the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Science is unanimous that in terms of emissions, the use of residual biomass is a better option than fossil fuels. But we cannot afford to cut down forests indiscriminately, because achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which is the EU’s great goal, goes through increasing forest areas, and hence the carbon sequestration capacity. Stricter national criteria for biomass utilization are needed in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, where a significant increase in the use of biomass for energy needs is expected in the next 10 years.”, said Georgi Stefanov, Head of Climate and Energy Practice at WWF.

What will WWF do?

Following consultations with energy and forestry stakeholders and building on the good practices from the region, WWF will develop recommendations for the introduction of stricter national criteria for the sustainable use of biomass. EU countries are obliged to review their climate plans for 2030 in 2023 and their long-term climate strategies for 2050 in 2025. Since part of the problems leading to air pollution and energy poverty cannot be addressed through legislative criteria, WWF also offers the following solutions:

1) creation of knowledge sharing centers

Online platforms will be developed where municipalities, local citizens and businesses can share their practical experience on how they have reduced biomass use or energy consumption. In this way, the best practices with the potential to be implemented on a large scale can be gathered.

2) demonstration of solutions feasible at the local level

There are no solutions in Central and Eastern Europe aimed at the dependence of energy-poor households on firewood. Therefore, such households from Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary will be able to apply for a program with a total budget of 100,000 euros to demonstrate feasible solutions at the local level.

3) aiding municipalities

The collected good practices and experience will be selected in a special set of tools to help municipalities. It will be available in Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian and English language.

The LIFE Bio-Balance project is funded by the LIFE Climate Management and Information Program. It will build on the results achieved by the Bio Screen project, implemented with the support of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and the EUKI programme.

Contact:
Georgi Stefanov, Head of Climate and Energy Practice, WWF, tel: 0889 517 976, email: gstefanov@wwf.bg


Bulgarian homes – often overcrowded, energy inefficient and too expensive

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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


Europe Housing Forum to focus on the future of affordable and sustainable housing

News

Bratislava, Slovakia (Nov. 8, 2021) – On the heels of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow and amid worsening economic and health conditions related to a COVID-19 spike in Europe, almost 1000 participants are expected to attend the virtual Europe Housing Forum to discuss how housing intersects with climate change, health and the economy.

“Habitat for Humanity believes that addressing the housing shortage sits at the heart of solutions to the greatest challenges facing Europe and the entire world today,” said Jonathan Reckford, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The residential construction sector creates many jobs and can help rebuild economies hit hard by the pandemic. Working together, civil society and nongovernmental actors can make sure that vulnerable groups and the informal sector are included in both economic recovery plans and efforts to ensure housing is more resilient to climate change.”

The importance of housing as a driver of economic growth and sustainability in human settlements will be one of the central discussions during the forum. The Europe Housing Forum brings together different stakeholders from the private and public sectors, practitioners and academia to discuss solutions to complex housing problems in the region and globally.

Featured speakers of the forum include: Gergely Karácsony, mayor of Budapest; deputy mayor of Paris for housing Ian Brossat; Estrella Durá-Ferrandis, member of the European Parliament from Spain; and Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for Energy, among many others. Speaking to the forum video addresses will be: Her Royal Highness Princess Lamia Bint Majed Saud AlSaud, secretary general and board member at Alwaleed Philanthropies; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme, or UN-HABITAT; and Habitat for Humanity’s Reckford.

Finalists for the 2021 European Housing Innovation Awards, who are competing in the shelter technology, inspirational practices and public policy categories, will also present at the forum. Contest awards are sponsored by the Hilti Foundation, Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity.

Sessions at the forum will range from roundtables to panels and workshops with housing experts, policymakers, business leaders, urban planners, donor agencies and youth organizations. The forum is organized by Habitat for Humanity International with input from more than a dozen partner organizations such as UN-HABITAT, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, or UNECE, European Investment Bank, Housing Europe, the city of Vienna, Cities Alliance, and the International Union of Tenants among others. Lead financial sponsorship was provided by the Hilti Foundation and Whirlpool Corporation as well as support from the Somfy Foundation and Wienerberger.

More information, including how to register, is available on the forum’s website. The event is part of a series of housing forums in 2021 that included the fourth Latin American and the Caribbean Housing Forum in May and the eighth Asia-Pacific Housing Forum to take place in December.

About Habitat for Humanity
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org/emea.


Habitat for Humanity advocates for inclusive, resilient housing at COP26 climate change conference

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GLASGOW (Nov. 1, 2021) — Habitat for Humanity International is calling on delegates at the world’s premiere climate change conference to ensure efforts to reduce carbon emissions don’t raise the cost of housing while also helping the most vulnerable families adapt their homes to withstand rising seas, extreme temperatures and increasingly intense weather events.

“Reducing carbon emissions associated with the residential sector is critical, and we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate another global crisis: the massive gap in adequate, affordable housing,” said Patrick Canagasingham, chief operating officer at Habitat for Humanity International. “The housing and climate crises are interconnected. They cannot be solved in isolation but rather through holistic efforts that prioritize the needs of families most vulnerable to climate change.”

The 26th Conference of the Parties meeting, or COP26, is the latest in a series of UN climate change conferences for countries that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP26, which opened Sunday and runs through Nov. 11 in Glasgow, Scotland, is the first such conference in which Habitat for Humanity International is an official participant.

Habitat released a list of COP26 commitments and recommendations, calling on the UN, multilateral development banks and donor governments to promote investment in housing renovation and upgrading while limiting carbon emissions created by new construction. They, along with all governments and housing actors, should place a special focus on the more than 1 billion residents of informal settlements by helping them adapt to climate change. This means, for example, prioritizing financing mechanisms for low-income households that frequently lack access to loans for improving their homes and making them more resilient to rising sea levels, droughts, floods, heat waves and weather events made more severe by climate change.

Earlier this year, Habitat for Humanity established an official organizational position on housing and climate change, recognizing that the building sector has a particular opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint, as it alone accounts directly and indirectly for 38% of global energy-related carbon emissions.

Habitat has dozens of projects around the world that involve climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, from building climate-adapted homes in Nepal and the Philippines to helping increase the energy efficiency of Soviet-era apartment buildings in Eastern Europe. Habitat helps neighborhoods in Paraguay assess climactic risks and, in the United States, we are developing a model for charting the embodied energy of several forms of residential construction to help identify cost-effective ways to reduce emissions quickly.

About Habitat for Humanity

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.


Bulgaria falls into the category of extreme energy poverty, according to the European Domestic Energy Poverty Index (EDEPI)

News

In the period July 2020 – June 2021, Habitat Bulgaria implemented the first joint advocacy project with the European Climate Foundation. Habitat Bulgaria actively advocated for the adoption of a Long-term Strategy for the Renovation of the Housing and Non-housing Stock 2021-2050, the development of a definition, parameters and content of „Energy Poverty” and the prolongation of the National Programme for Energy Efficiency of the Multi-family Buildings on the basis of new principles for co-financing and selection and with a focus on supporting the low-income households for their participation in the Programme.

Part of the key activities that the organization carried out:

• Assessment of stipulated mechanisms for support of the participation of low-income and vulnerable households in the process of the renovation of the housing stock in the CEE countries;
• Research on the existing definitions of “Energy Poverty” in Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania;
• Survey of municipal officers, non-governmental representatives, and professional house managers on the importance of the improvement of the existing mechanisms of the National Program for Energy Efficiency of the Multi-family Buildings;
• Number of policy position statements requiring changes in national strategic documents related to the energy renovation of the housing stock.

Habitat Bulgaria continues its successful partnership with the European Climate Foundation, starting from July 2021 to June 2022. With the second joint project, the organization enriches the advocacy activities for access to energy renovation executed in the first year of the partnership. Habitat Bulgaria will put a strong emphasis on the importance of the European Climate Law and the intermediate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, as well as the role of energy renovation of residential buildings in tackling energy poverty and achieving EU carbon neutrality by 2050.

Habitat Bulgaria will carry out its advocacy activities in the following areas:

• Energy poverty and socially just differentiated grant support – priority of the low-income and energy-poor households;
• Advantages of the energy efficiency improvement of the housing stock;
• Advantages of the adoption of minimum energy performance standards;
• Carbon pricing, eco-design and energy labelling – advantages and importance.

Energy poverty is a situation in which households are unable to access essential energy services. With nearly 34 million Europeans, mostly from Central-Eastern European countries, unable to afford to keep their homes adequately warm in 2018, energy poverty is a major challenge for the EU. In the same period, Bulgaria is the country with the highest percentage (14.8%) of energy costs, as share of total low-income households’ expenditure. Energy poverty results from a combination of low income, high expenditure of disposable income on energy and poor energy efficiency, especially with regard to the performance of buildings.

Ground-breaking research by OpenExp tackles the challenge of cross-country analysis of the progress being made to alleviate energy poverty in Europe. The European Domestic Energy Poverty Index (EDEPI) is a composite indicator that computes, for low-income households, into a single figure such progress across four common metrics used to assess the causes and symptoms of energy poverty:

• Energy expenditures as a share of total household expenditures;
• Inability to keep home warm in winter;
• Inability to keep home cool in summer;
• Living in dwelling with leaky roof.

EDEPI scores show the majority of EU countries have ‘moderately high’ to ‘extreme’ levels of energy poverty among low-income households. The OpenExp research reveals that three European countries are with the highest levels of energy poverty – Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia. The latest edition of EDEPI ranks Bulgaria as the country with the highest levels of energy poverty with 0.7 EDEPI, which is defined as extreme. The other two countries have 10-12 times better indicators than Bulgaria, respectively, Hungary with 6.2. EDEPI and Slovakia with 8.4 EDEPI. In contrast, the countries with almost no energy poverty are Sweden with 95.4 EDEPI and Finland with 85.6 EDEPI.

Energy poverty is a key concept consolidated in the legislative package entitled ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’, which is designed to facilitate a just energy transition. Under Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council (‘the Governance Regulation’) and the recast Electricity Directive 2019, the Commission is required to provide indicative guidance on appropriate indicators for measuring energy poverty and on the definition of a ‘significant number of households in energy poverty’. There is no standard definition of energy poverty, and it is therefore left to Member States to develop their own criteria according to their national context. In their National energy and climate plans (NECPs), Member States have to assess the number of households in energy poverty. In the event that a Member State finds that it has a significant number of households in energy poverty, it shall include in its plan a national objective as well as policies and measures to reduce energy poverty. So far, Bulgaria has not met these requirements.

A fair transition towards a climate-neutral Union by 2050 is central to the European Green Deal proposed by the Commission in December 2019. A centerpiece of this Green Deal is the Renovation Wave, a major initiative designed to boost the structural renovation of private and public buildings, thereby reducing emissions, boosting recovery and addressing energy poverty. Such structural renovation shall help boost EU efforts in climate change mitigation. For this reason, it has been considered vital that the Renovation Wave and this Recommendation be jointly adopted in order to mutually strengthen the calls to tackle energy poverty and worst-performing buildings.

Next Generation EU confirms the Renovation Wave’s role as one main facilitator of the green recovery. National long-term renovation strategies and other instruments designed to meet the 2030 and 2050 energy efficiency targets should be steered towards protecting energy-poor households and empowering vulnerable energy consumers by helping people save money on energy bills, providing healthier living conditions, and reducing energy poverty. Identifying the households most in need of protection and dwellings most in need of renovation helps in targeting and better managing public interventions, thereby producing practical outcomes for consumers, improving energy efficiency, and minimising any distortions in the functioning of the internal energy market.

Renovating our homes and buildings will save energy, protect against extremes of heat or cold and tackle energy poverty. The new Social Climate Fund will support EU citizens most affected or at risk of energy or mobility poverty. It will help mitigate the costs for those most exposed to changes, to ensure that the transition is fair and leaves no one behind. It will provide EUR 72.2 billion over 7 years in funding for renovation of buildings, access to zero and low emission mobility, or even income support. In addition to homes, public buildings must also be renovated to use more renewable energy, and to be more energy efficient.

The Fund should provide funding to Member States to support measures and investments in increased energy efficiency of buildings, decarbonisation of heating and cooling of buildings, including the integration of energy from renewable sources, and granting improved access to zero- and low-emission mobility and transport. These measures and investments need to principally benefit vulnerable households, micro-enterprises or transport users. Pending the impact of those investments on reducing costs and emissions, the Fund will also be able to finance temporary direct income support for vulnerable households.

Below you can see four infographics that Habitat Bulgaria has created on the topic “Energy poverty”.




Resources:
EDEPI: https://www.openexp.eu/sites/default/files/publication/files/european_energy_poverty_index-eepi_en.pdf
European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/markets-and-consumers/energy-consumer-rights/energy-poverty_en
OpenExp: https://www.openexp.eu
EU Energy Poverty Observatory: https://www.energypoverty.eu
Move.bg: https://move.bg/nevidimiyat-problem


Sociological survey „Housing needs and attitudes of families, living in poverty areas in the municipalities Sliven and Targovishte, Bulgaria”

News

In the period July, 20th – October, 20th 2020 Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria conducted a representative sociological survey „Housing needs and attitudes of families, living in poverty areas in the municipalities Sliven and Targovishte, Bulgaria”. A total of 800 households were interviewed, 310 of them in “Nadezhda” district of Sliven, 140 in the village of Topolchane, Sliven region, 150 in the „Malcho Malchev” district of Targovishte and 200 in the village of Golyamo Novo, Targovishte region.

This survey was part of the project “Research Based Arguments for New Housing Policies in Benefit of All”, which aims to contribute towards development of longterm, needs-driven minicipal and national housing policies, which will secure safe and adequate housing for the Roma population. Habitat Bulgaria implements this project with the financial support of Active Citizen Fund Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2014 – 2021 г.

Associate professor Alexey Pamporov, sociologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) analyzed and summarized the results in an analytical report, covering three main thematic fields:

1. Living conditions (housing, infrastructure, domestic heating);
2. Housing ownership and attitudes towards housing legalization (ownership documents, legalization process, the idea for ideal new house, access to municipal housing);
3. Household income and attitudes to housing microfinance.

The lack of adequate sanitary conditions is a prerequisite for poor hygiene, increased health and epidemics risk and has negative impact on different aspects of residents’ social and economic status. Based on that study, recommendations will be made for improvеment of housing policies and legislation at local and national level.

The full sociological study in Bulgarian you can find here: Housing needs and attitudes of families, living in poverty areas in the municipalities Sliven and Targovishte, Bulgaria

A short summary of the sociological study in English you can find here: Housing needs and attitudes of families, living in poverty areas in the municipalities Sliven and Targovishte, Bulgaria

More about the organization:

Since 2010 Habitat Bulgaria works successfully in the municipality of Targovishte in partnership with “Club of NGO”. Thanks to the collaboration of the two organizations over a ten year period more than 1,100 low-income families received interest-free housing microfinance support for the total amount of 498,000 BGN.

From 2016 on, Habitat Bulgaria works successfully in the municipality of Sliven in the frame of the initiative for home improvement microfinance support to low-income families. Over a period of 4 years the organization has supported 560 families form the “Nadezhda” district with interest-free loans for the total amount of 111, 000 BGN.

The project „Research Based Arguments for New Housing Policies in Benefit of All” is implemented with financial support of 93,000 Euro, secured by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway within the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The main goal of the project is to contribute to the development of long-term, needs-driven municipal and national housing policies, which will secure safe and adequate housing for Roma.

This publication has been produced with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The entire responsibility for the content of the document lies with the Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria Foundation and under no circumstances can it be assumed that this document reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria Operator.


Habitat Bulgaria has successfully implemented a 6-year program for improvement of the living conditions of low-income families

News

Over the past 6 years Habitat Bulgaria has been implementing an effective model for providing holistic community support, which includes: • housing microfinance for low-income families; • increasing the local community capacity by delivering life skills training seminars for the beneficiary groups; • providing additional social and community services through a grant funding scheme for small local project initiatives; • supporting early childhood development and raising awareness on issues related to home maintenance, hygienе and family budgeting through an educational board game. During the period July, 2014 – December, 2020 the initiiative was realized with the support of VELUX FOUNDATIONS in the frame of the project “Social Protection and Alleviation from Deprivation for At-risk Children and Adolescents in Bulgaria through Improving Living Conditions and Other Community Based Support” and in cooperation with eight local CBOs.

The model was based on a microfinance facility, which Habitat Bulgaria develops since 2008. The foundation capitalizes revolving Home Improvement Funds, managed by local CBOs, which disburse small interest-free loans to families in need of urgent home repairs. The beneficiary families pay back in small monthly installments, according to their individual capabilities, and the collected funds are available to subsequent families in need. In the frame of this program Habitat Bulgaria has capitalized 249,000 BGN and thanks to its revolving nature the Home Improvement Fund has revolved 7.7 times, allowing the beneficiary families to invest 1,311,430 BGN in home renovations. A total of 2,137 home improvement loans have been provided, thanks to which 3,345 families and 3,784 children live in more comfortable, energy-efficient and healthy homes.

The project was implemented primarily in 8 regions of the country: in Targovishte with Club of NGOs, in Dupnitsa – with Association “Amala-Priateli”, in Kyustendil – with CDC “Vasil Levski 1965″, in Sofia – with “Health and Social Development” Foundation, in Sliven – with Foundation “The Health of Roma”, in Rakitovo – with Foundation “Future”, in Burgas – with Association “Business Center Bourgas” and in Sungurlare – with Association “Informational Business Center Sungurlare”. For a short period of time our implementing partner was also Association “Equilibrium” – in Ruse.

In order to make the housing improvement process more complete, Habitat Bulgaria offered to beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills to manage their financial resources, to keep their houses in good condition and to save energy and resources. The organization has developed three life skills training modules: Family Budgeting Training, Home Maintenance Training and Energy Efficiency Training. The training seminars were practically oriented, based on examples and work tasks that are close to the everyday life routine of the participants and are adapted to the needs and capabilities of the specific target group. Within this program we have organized a total of 54 training seminars with 917 participants.

As an additional way to support the local community, the program offered a sub-granting opportunity for small community-based initiatives. 35 small project initiatives were accomplished for the total amount of 210,035 BGN. A number of activities, mainly related to the education of the children form the target communities have been implemented: establishment of a day center for children from the Roma neighborhood in Targovishte; after-school classes in Bulgarian language, literature and mathematics for children with unsatisfactory school results in Dupnitsa and Kyustendil; summer school for children from the Roma neighborhood “Fakulteta” in Sofia; activities to motivate students to continue their school education and prevent dropping-out of school in Rakitovo; consultations to increase the parental capacity and teach basic skills for raising babies and small kids in Sliven; young entrepreneur training seminars in Sungurlare and Bourgas etc. This opportunity was especially useful and appreciated during the pandemic situation when the students had to adapt within short time to the distant learning school organization. Thanks to the funding provided by Habitat Bulgaria most local organizations were able to help poor students by providing materials, equipment and tutorials for the online school platforms.

Driven by the aim to include the youngest members of our target communities and to transfer knowledge and useful habits related to our three educational modules, we have developed an educational board game “The Neighborhood”. The game consists of play-filed, cards and pawns and was designed for children aged 8 -12. The players read and perform the actions written on the cards and as part of the game they learn important concepts related to organizing their daily routine, saving energy and resources, maintaining personal hygiene and healthy habits, keeping the home energy efficient and sustainable, saving money to achieve specific goals.

The main focus of this 6-year program was to improve the housing conditions in order to ceate a better and healthier environment for children to live, study and socialize. Overall, trough home renovation loans, sub-granted small project initiatives and the board game, we have supported 11,951 children.

The partnership model implemented by Habitat Bulgaria complements and adds on value to the various social support, offered be the local NGOs. The model was appreciated as a good practice and as an example of a holistic approach to solving the multiple problems of vulnerable communities by influential organizations, such as The European Commission and the European Network EUROCHILD. Habitat Bulgaria and partners are motivated to continue implementing this model, as well as to expand its scope to other regions of the country.

For context:
● THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS are comprised of the two non-profit foundations VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN. Among our grant areas are natural, technical, health and human sciences. We also support environmental, social and cultural purposes in Denmark and internationally. Both foundations were created by Villum Kann Rasmussen–the founder of VELUX and other companies in the VKR Group, whose mission it is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives. To learn more about The Velux Foundations visit: www.veluxfoundations.dk

● Habitat Bulgaria is part of the large network of Habitat for Humanity, a global non-governmental organization operating in all 50 states in the US, as well as in over 70 countries worldwide. Since its founding in 1976, the organization has helped more than 35 million people to improve their living conditions by providing housing assistance such as building homes, public works and repairs, and by improving access to the housing market at affordable prices. https://hfh.bg/en


IV National Housing Forum “Overcoming the housing and energy poverty – a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”

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With the Third National Housing Forum held in 2019, Habitat Bulgaria has put a strong emphasis on the growing need to secure access to housing and renovation of the poor neighbourhoods. This year, the organization builds up these issues by organizing the Fourth National Housing Forum “Overcoming the housing and energy poverty – a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”. The forum is implemented within the Build Solid Ground project, approved and funded by the Development Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) under the Development Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) strand.

The UN Agenda 2030, called “Transforming the World: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development”, lays out the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bulgaria’s first Voluntary National Review (2020) of the implementation of the SDGs has presented a valuable opportunity to take stock of the progress made, to identify challenges and to map out future steps for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It covers all 17 Goals. Bulgaria shares the main message of the 2030 Agenda for “leaving no one behind” and strongly advocates the link between the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the protection of human rights. Several goals are directly related to the right to adequate housing and the right to energy:

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere, Target 1.4.

“By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.”

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, Target 7.3.

“By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.”

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, Target 11.1.

“By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.”

These urgent global goals determined the main highlights of the forum agenda. The event was opened by Mr Benov, National Director of Habitat Bulgaria, who delivered a welcome address.

The online meeting was divided into three panels:

• Panel I. Agenda 2030 in Bulgaria – national strategic documents pertaining to the right of access to adequate housing and slum upgrading.
Speakers: Ms Lachezara Stoeva – Head, “UN and Cooperation for Development” Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria; Ms Rositsa Ivanova – Secretary and Senior Programme Officer of the NCCEII, Secretariat of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, Council of Ministers and Mr Ivaylo Stoyanov – Head, “General Strategic Planning and Programs for Regional Development” Directorate, Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works.

• Panel II. Agenda 2030 in Bulgaria – national strategic documents pertaining to the energy poverty of households and increasing residential energy efficiency.
Speakers: Mr Dragomir Tzanev – Executive Director, EnEffect; Mr Ivan Ivanov – Director, “Central Coordination Unit” Directorate, Council of Ministers and Ms Tsvetomira Kulevska – Director, General Directorate “Coordination and Management of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources “, Sustainable Energy Development Agency (SEDA).

• Panel ІІІ. Closing discussion: How to overcome housing and energy poverty? The experience of the Bulgarian municipalities.

A total of 90 participants united in their position that Bulgaria, as a Party to several international agreements, has committed itself to achieve the set goals, but five years after the adoption of the UN Agenda 2030, the level of implementation is unsatisfactory. Key challenges to SDG implementation persist. One of the most important tasks ahead is the creation of a national mechanism for coordination and implementation of the SDGs. Such a mechanism should be located within the executive power. Among its main objectives will be monitoring SDG implementation, ensuring coordinated dialogue and designing sustainable development policies.

The discussion showed the urgent need to address all the following issues:

• Housing poverty in neighbourhoods with a predominant Roma population, lack of an Integrated Development Plan for Roma neighbourhoods that prevent municipalities from providing design and construction of sustainable infrastructure to deliver basic services like access to transport, water supply and sanitation, waste management, street lighting, landscaping, etc.

• The long-standing tolerance of the institutions to illegal construction and the need for a one-time “amnesty” for buildings under the indefinite status that are the only housing for their occupants.

• The low housing mobility and the growing share of homeowners who could not afford to keep their home adequately warm have stood out as one of the major problems facing the Bulgarian housing system. According to estimates from EU statistics agency Eurostat, Mr Benov quoted in his presentation, over 30% Bulgarians cannot afford to heat their homes sufficiently, the highest percentage in the European Union. “This is a worrying rate and means tackling housing and energy poverty is more urgent than ever”, said Mr Benov.

• Poor residential energy efficiency has been addressed as one of the principal causes for most of the adverse effects of energy poverty. Furthermore, it leads to critical levels of air pollution from uncontrolled sources combustion, mainly waste, using for the production of heat and hot water. A precise definition, observable criteria and defining the most vulnerable target groups need to be identified to measure energy poverty.

• Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, released for public consultation, presents the views of the Government and the society on how structural problems in the economy should be addressed, through an internally coherent and consistent combination of reforms and investments. However, a large part of the proposed reforms follows old models, for example, the same inefficient and non-market mechanism for 100% grant funding to homeowners for energy-efficient home renovations. The participants have put forward several suggestions such as establishing a differentiated approach that allows different types of homeowners to take part in the process, as well as defining clear obligations applied to all owners to achieve the decarbonisation targets by 2050.

All recommendations prioritised by participants will be issued in a formal statement to help developing sound and pragmatic long-term national policies. The forum ended with the good news that on the same day the Council of Ministers adopted а draft of the Long-term national strategy for support for national residential and non-residential building stock renovation with an implementation horizon until 2050. The strategy envisages renovating 60% of the housing stock and nearly 17% of the non-housing by 2050.

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National Housing Forums held in 2013, 2016 and 2019


MEPs: Access to adequate housing should be a fundamental European right

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• Adequate housing to include high-quality drinking water and sanitation

• Call for an EU-wide goal to end homelessness by 2030

• Housing costs should be kept affordable by law

MEPs call on the EU to recognise access to decent and affordable housing as an enforceable human right and to push for measures to eradicate homelessness.

The resolution – adopted by352 votes in favour, 179 against and 152 abstentions on Thursday – states that decent housing includes access to clean and high-quality drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities, as well as connection to sewage and water networks. The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right that should be enshrined in national and European law, say MEPs.

Minimum mandatory requirements for habitable homes should be introduced at EU level that include healthy indoor air quality and are aligned with WHO guidelines, MEPs urge. They also call on the Commission and member states to prioritise the reduction of emissions and to boost energy efficiency through housing renovation.

Eradicating homelessness by 2030

In many EU countries, rates of homelessness have increased over the last decade due to rising housing costs and social programmes and benefits being cut and suspended. The resolution reiterates Parliament’s earlier call for an EU-wide goal to end homelessness by 2030. In addition, exceptional measures to prevent homelessness and protect homeless people in the COVID-19 crisis should be maintained – particularly moratoria on evictions and on disconnection from energy supplies as well as the provision of temporary housing.

Keeping housing affordable

MEPs also call on member states and regional and local authorities to put in place legal provisions to protect the rights of tenants and owner-occupiers. Housing is considered affordable if the occupant’s remaining budget is at least sufficient to cover other essential expenditure. While this threshold is currently set at 40%, more than a quarter of European tenants in commercial housing spend a higher percentage of their income on rent, with average rents constantly increasing.

Finally, MEPs point out that the expansive growth of short-term holiday rental is removing housing from the market and driving prices up, which can make living in urban and tourist centres significantly more difficult.

Quote

Rapporteur Kim VAN SPARRENTAK said: “European rules are often better at protecting profit generated by the housing market than protecting people who need a roof over their heads. We need the EU to step up its game and use all the tools available to do its part, together with the member states. The report offers concrete solutions for all levels to take action. We can solve the housing crisis if we want to, and we can end homelessness by 2030.”

Background

According to research by Eurofound, inadequate housing costs EU economies 195 billion EUR every year. A growing number of people living in the EU find housing difficult to afford and spend a disproportionate amount on housing. In particular, single parents, large families and young people entering the labour market find that their income is insufficient to afford market rents but too high for them to be eligible for social housing.

Resource: European Parliament
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210114IPR95632/meps-access-to-adequate-housing-should-be-a-fundamental-european-right