Bricks, tiles and pipes for people in need
This October will witness final stages of a construction project for families with children near Bulgaria´s capital, Sofia. The new houses are built not only to support families with low income but also to demonstrate energy-efficient technology and use of recycled materials. It also shows the benefits of volunteering for sustainable development.
Austrian companies from the Wienerberger group, Wienerberger, Tondach and PipeLife – all leading suppliers of construction materials – have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to carry out this social construction in Bulgaria. Each home is built with slightly different products and construction methods. Later, engineers will analyze their performance and determine which home saves more energy.
Housing in Bulgaria
During the communist era, the government provided housing for all families in Bulgaria. Since the system has transitioned to a market economy, people buy or rent their homes. However, the newly fledged financial system does not offer affordable mortgages and loans. Hence, only better off families can afford them, and those on low income are ruled out as potential clients.
The responsibility to provide homes for low-income groups was transferred to the municipalities, who were not given resources to address the problems. As a result, more and more homes need repairs, while many homeowners cannot afford basic maintenance. At the same time, the EU accession significantly increased property prices in Bulgaria, especially in the capital, pushing more families out of the market.
Efforts to address the social need in Bulgaria are part of a broader cooperation with Wienerberger, Tondach and PipeLife, through which Habitat helps low-income families, the disabled and vulnerable communities in Bulgaria and Romania. Within the partnership, Habitat for Humanity plans to build 15 homes over 3 years in various locations in Bulgaria. On top of financial and material donations, the companies provide much needed volunteer time and professional expertise to help people in need.
Projects in Romania
In Romania, the partnership with Wienerberger already supported a number of projects. In 2012, the Wienerberger Porotherm bricks were used at the blitz construction event, the Big Build. In 2013, support went towards the first hospice for terminally ill children and adults in Bucharest. It can help 700 patients annually and provide day care facilities for 5,000. The partnership contributed to the construction of family homes close to Cluj, one community facility for people with mental disabilities in Mihailesti, and reconstruction of a school near Iasi.
New plans might include a new construction for 30 new homes in Oradea. This project will provide housing for families who face eviction due to the continuing government policy of giving homes back to the initial owners, those who lost their property and land in the nationalization under communism.