Author: Desislava Georgieva
Published On: 02/12/2022

Around 35% of the housing in Sofia is empty, said Vasil Lyunchev in an interview for the Hristo Botev programme on BNR. What I heard in the headphones brought me out of my morning nap and made me listen with great interest to the end of the interview. The guest in an interesting way combined statistics and curious situations from real life in answering the questions of the host. The interview was over, but my mind refused to stop dwelling on the topic. Actually, things haven’t changed. The majority of Bulgarians think and act in the same way and this has been passed down from generation to generation. The differences are in the implementation. As a child I remember my parents building huge two-storey houses, planning to house several generations to live together. The advent of prefabs in “mature socialism” quickly shattered that patriarchy. The young wanted to live on their own, independent of the old, because it was fashionable. So many of the second floors of large family houses remained empty. Whole houses in smaller settlements remained empty. Today, the concept of a multi-generational home is no longer on the agenda. Society has changed, but the thinking has not. Today we call the process investing, but in fact many parents have simply replaced “building the second floor” with buying additional housing. Maybe in bigger cities, but why not in the capital. Children need to be provided for to prosper. Though who is asking them kids? Life-wise, they might go away to study and then live abroad. Statistically our population is declining and there is simply no one to live in the newly built apartments. And then the new apartments remain empty, like the empty floors of the old family houses.

Why am I bothering you with this question? Why am I raising the subject? Because it is directly related to sustainable development – what we do at the Public Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development. The issue concerns the wise use of the resources we consume. That is the basis of sustainable development. Perhaps it would be more sustainable to invest resources in the education and upbringing of children, or if they choose, to live in a Bedouin tent. Why not? Maybe if you have more money, it would be more sustainable to invest in improving the quality of the environment instead of personal over-provisioning. Maybe that way today’s kids will have more than one reason to stay living in the community where their parents lived and built.

I don’t know if you’re suggesting, but there’s probably “no bad thing” in property investment either. Globally population is increasing, climate change will very soon cause entire nations to “catch the path” of migration. In that line of thought, some empty homes could prove useful. And for their owners?