Bulgaria -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Behind the gray walls of ubiquitous soc-style blocks, families are trapped in deteriorated homes.
During the communist regime the Bulgarian government provided low-interest housing loans for families to buy homes in poor-quality panel blocks of flats. But once a market economy took hold, the responsibility for housing fell on the local authorities who do not have enough resources to deal with the problem. As a result, more and more homes need major repairs while many homeowners cannot afford even the most basic maintenance. Although it is expected to bring long-term benefits, the anticipated accession to the European Union had serious impact on the cost of property, especially in the capital.
Families find themselves in an even more difficult housing situation when they move to bigger cities, particularly Sofia, in search of jobs. It is not a custom in Bulgaria to sign a legal contract when renting an apartment; so many families find themselves on the street when the landlord finds someone who can pay more. Some families move dozens of times and the frequent address changes make them ineligible for municipal help with housing.
Habitat in Bulgaria
HFH Bulgaria is one of the youngest members in the Habitat family from Europe and Central Asia. When the chairman of the Bulgarian parliament invited Habitat for Humanity to start working in Bulgaria, a group of citizens took the idea on board. After completing surveys of economic, social and political conditions for HFH’s involvement, the first affiliate in Sofia was officially approved in 2001.
In 2003 the groundbreaking ceremony arked the start of the first construction project in the Slatina neighbourhood, one of the poorer areas of the capital city. Completed in 2005, the eight-unit apartment building will shelter eight families, selected among 50 participants. The families have worked hard on the site, helping build their long-awaited homes. Many volunteers have also worked side by side with families.
HFH Bulgaria pays special attention to young families who are forced to stay with relatives or other families in overcrowded, often substandard conditions. All Habitat homeowners have children, some have two or more. Habitat gives true hope to those families dreaming of stable housing and a better future for their children.
Currently, Habitat for Humanity Sofia is working on the development of the second construction process in the town of Kostinbrod. At the same time it has launched a repair and renovation project in Sofia in partnership with the Bulgarian Fund for Women.
Regular joint efforts on the construction site strengthened the partnership between HFH Sofia and local U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.