Country Listing

Bulgaria Table of Contents



In the postwar era, housing in Bulgaria improved significantly as more and better-quality homes were built. Expectations for housing availability also increased significantly in that time, however. According to a 1990 survey, 51 percent of all Bulgarians were dissatisfied with their current housing, and 73 percent (especially young families) did not believe that their current housing would be adequate for their future needs.

In 1990 the average home in Bulgaria had three rooms and an area of 65 square meters. This small average size reflected the policy of the command economy, which was to build many small oneor two-room apartments in large prefabricated housing complexes in order to maximize the number of available housing units and meet growing demand. In 1985 some 15.6 percent of all homes had one room, 31.5 percent had two rooms, 29.6 percent had three rooms, 14.4 percent had four rooms, and only 8.9 percent had five or more rooms. As a result, 65 percent of the population averaged only half a room per family member. Only 36 percent of families with children under eighteen had a separate children's room; 65 percent used the living room as a bedroom; and 57 percent used the kitchen as a bedroom. By 1990 communal apartments were becoming rarer, however; at that time, 12 percent of families shared a kitchen with another family.

The predominance of small housing units put larger families at a disadvantage. The situation was also difficult for young couples, 60 percent of whom were forced to stay in their parents' homes after marriage. In 1990 over 40 percent of homes included two or more families or other relatives of one family. Members of three or even four generations often lived together. Traditional acceptance of the extended family contributed to this situation, but long waits for separate housing also played a critical role. In 1979 the government established a special Young Newlywed Families Fund that ensured that new families would receive at least 25 percent of new government housing. This program delivered more housing to young families in the 1980s, but waiting lists also grew longer during that period.

Living space was much more available in villages than in cities. One-room homes were unusual in villages, and villagers were much more likely to live in separate homes than in apartment complexes. Village houses usually had more rooms, but they lacked many of the modern conveniences available in city apartments.

In 1985 hot running water, a shower or bathtub, and an indoor toilet were available in only 42.4 percent of homes. Between the 1975 and 1985 censuses, the number of households with bathtubs or showers almost doubled, from 34.0 percent to 63.7 percent. Still, only 39.3 percent of villagers had a bathtub or shower, and only 7.3 percent of them had an indoor toilet. In 1990 many villages lacked a sewage system and relied on wells for water. At that time, about 30 percent of Bulgarian homes had electric heating, and 34 percent were connected to a steam central heating system.

Housing planners often overlooked the need for convenient schools, stores, and recreational facilities. (For Bulgarians, proximity generally meant fifteen minutes' walk.) On the average, 70 to 80 percent of construction funds went to constructing the housing complexes themselves, and only 20 to 30 percent went to building facilities to serve the residents of the complexes. This was especially true in Sofia, where some of the newest neighborhoods were isolated from the rest of the city.

Housing was affected by the drastic reform-period price hikes in Bulgaria. At the end of 1990, apartment owners in Sofia were offering to sell two-room apartments at between 100,000 and 200,000 leva, or to rent them for 600 leva per month. Moreover, the new economic system gave landlords the right to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. In 1990 prospective homebuyers frustrated by the steeper housing prices established a tent city in Sofia to dramatize the threat of homelessness (see The Ferment of 1988-90 , ch. 4).

Also at risk for homelessness were many Bulgarian Turks who had emigrated in 1989 but returned after the overthrow of Zhivkov. By 1991 the state had bought many of the Turks' homes and resold them; other homes were occupied illegally. In 1991 many who lost their homes in this way went through the bureaucratic process of reclaiming their property. In 1990 Sofia created a new foundation to help the homeless, especially elderly and single people, and to aid in the building and financing of homes.

Data as of June 1992

Country Listing

Bulgaria Table of Contents