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Housing Development in Bulgaria - learning from 2014-2020 to take a step further in 2021-2027

Housing Europe, UNECE and the authorities in Bulgaria look at EU's Operational Programme “Regions in Growth” and its impact on housing

Brussels, 31 March 2022 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

Housing Europe has worked for months together with the UNECE to help the authorities in Bulgaria to build multi-level institutional capacity and be able to address the complex and deep-seated housing problems in the country. Read about the work that has been done and why it was necessary.

Since January 2018, UN-Habitat and the UN Regional Commissions have jointly been implementing the project 'Strengthening the capacities of national and local governments to formulate and implement evidence-based and participatory housing policies and strategies', supporting countries in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 on “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. 

Housing Europe's continuous analyses and knowledge of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), its international experiences, and members' good practices have made it a good partner to work with the UN on the lessons learnt from the Operational Programme “Regions in Growth” 2014-2020 (OPRG 2014-2020) - one of the main programmes addressing housing needs in Bulgaria with funds from the EU. Based on the outcomes, Housing Europe, UN-Habitat and UNECE worked with the government in Bulgaria on recommendations that can inform future housing policy, as well as contribute to the implementation of the next regional development programme in 2021-2027. Moreover, a series of regional workshops on the role of local government to implement social housing programmes took place in 2021.

The strengths and weaknesses of the housing sector in Bulgaria

Looking back at how Bulgaria has put into place Operational programme “Regions in Growth” 2014-2020, the main funding principle has been reducing poverty and segregation.The national operational programme has also addressed both new social housing construction and energy-efficient renovation. Following an integrated approach, in the 2014-2020 period, the housing measures required a mix of much-needed measures to provide technical (utilities-water, electricity, gas, etc.), social and educational infrastructure (schools, kindergartens, public services, etc.) and measures improving the urban environment and public transport. In addition to that, the interventions in the housing were combined with activities to ensure access to education, employment, health and social services for disadvantaged groups. The range of services provided in each locality were delivered between the Employment Agency and the Social Assistance Agency (SAA). 

Looking at the numbers, 24 cities implemented social housing construction projects, with a total amount of the grant BGN 58,148,079.76 [approx. EUR 29,730,641.09]. Out of these 24, 6 of them involve new construction, 2 are for completion of already started construction and the remaining 6 are for reconstruction of existing buildings. In total, about 1095 social dwellings are expected to be built.

At the same time, municipal housing is unlikely to exceed 3% of the total housing stock of Bulgaria (3.9 million). The figure is still falling (due to sales to tenants) and could be as low as 2%.

Housing Europe's analysis also reports for significant disparities at regional and local levels. Many cities which were created or expanded to host state-owned industries have been left behind by the transition to a market-oriented economy and housing vacancies are extremely high, with some villages and towns facing complete abandonment

One-third of the population in Bulgaria is estimated to be living below the poverty line, which poses serious challenges to the repair and upgrade of buildings, due to households' limited financial resources: this problem has significant economic, environmental, health, and demographic repercussions.

Moreover, inadequate housing conditions are still widespread among the Roma population. Three-fifths of the Roma houses are not connected to the central sewer system, and four-fifths have no bathrooms inside. Further, more than a third of young adults are unable to afford a house, and hence are continuing to live with their parents or other family. Promoting a balanced range of housing options to address different and changing housing needs is key. An accurate analysis of housing conditions and projections of future housing needs was therefore recommended by the report. 

The next regional development programme 2021-2027 can be an important driver for channeling available and quite significant funding to the housing sector.

In the next 7 years of the 2021-2027 programme, the report looks at 5 spheres of housing that Bulgaria could further advance in:

Improving capacity and skills

  • technical assistance  from the central level to the municipalities to establish project implementation units
  • to organise trainings for housing managers
  • the establishment of peer-2-peer exchanges (city-to-city)
  • the provision of methodological support and thematic expertise to municipalities

Setting up adequate funding schemes

  • PPP, One-stop-shops, EPC, Investment platforms

Overcome maintenance challenges

  • Using EU and national funding for viable maintenance models
  • Involvement of tenants - learning from best practices  

Better cooperation with target groups

  • Different method of communication (face-to-face, group meetings, by phone, etc.).
  • Skilled mediators/social workers

Better engagement with the local community

  • Organisation of national and regional conferences about the integration of social housing
  • Clear communication on the selection criteria of tenants
  • Cooperation with local stakeholders and their consultation

Read the full analysis in the download section below.


Since 2017, Housing Europe has been supporting public, cooperative, social, and affordable housing providers but also organisations from countries outside of our membership network that have expressed an interest in addressing urgent housing needs on the ground.

This work manifests in a vast range of areas, such as:

  • Political housing strategies management models of social housing; collaborative housing
  • Building evidence-based housing policy (target groups, tenure)
  • Expertise in the evaluation of housing programmes targeting vulnerable groups
  • Housing as an integral aspect of urban development
  • Practical examples to support emerging housing organisations
  • Policy instruments and financial mechanisms for multi-family housing; renovation finance
  • Social inclusion measures and training of housing managers
  • Testing social mix at a local level
  • Changing the mindset of the general public and showing the positive impact of social housing and affordable housing
  • Mitigation and adaptation activities
  • Sustainability of the social housing system as part of an inclusive and smart city  

Reach out to our Senior Policy Officer, Edit Lakatos at to know more.