The topic of informal housing and policies to improve the housing conditions of vulnerable groups brought together 50 students and teachers from 7 European academic institutions for a summer school hosted by the Open Society Institute – Sofia.
In the last week of July, the participants in the forum explored the experience and vision for improving the housing policies of Bulgarian and international public institutions and non-governmental organizations, including the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues at the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the Municipality of Kyustendil, Center Amalipe, LARGO Association, Health and Social Development Foundation, Trust for Social Achievements, Equal Opportunities Association and Habitat.
The participants held meetings and carried out field research among residents of the “Fakulteta” neighborhood in the capital and “Iztok” neighborhood in Kyustendil, where they got to know the culture of the local communities and examined the way of life and the needs and expectations for secure housing among families from the most marginalized social groups. Within the framework of the forum, the representatives of the academic community discussed the challenges of ensuring the right to decent housing, including through legislative and policy solutions on regularization of housing, certificates of tolerance, prevention of evictions from single housing, and regularization and upgrading of areas with informal settlements.
Participants agreed on suggestions for effective policy measures, including the need to map areas with deteriorated housing conditions, develop and finance the implementation of detailed zoning plans with the active participation of local communities, guarantee access for every citizen to basic communal services, public transport, social and street infrastructure, creation of prerequisites for inclusion in the housing market of the huge vacant housing fund, as well as construction and maintenance of social housing and guaranteeing the possibility of obtaining personal IDs for every citizen, regardless of the availability of address registration.
The summer school is an initiative within the “PusH – Precarious housing in Europe” project, financed under the “Erasmus +” Program, within which the Open Society Institute – Sofia partners with the universities of Durham (Great Britain), Utrecht (Netherlands), Venice (Italy), Leuphana (Germany), Danube University Krems (Austria) and the Center for Economic and Regional Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Hungary).