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1Drom

Equal access to housing for Roma in Vidin

09.12.2017

Sonya Machorska

  Equal access to housing for Roma in Vidin was held today by NGO Organization Drom, supported by Open Society Foundations. The NGO has for twenty years "paved the way" for a better life of the Roma Community in the District of Vidin.

   Due to the pilot Roma Desegregation project in Vidin, launched by Organization Drom and its chairperson Ms. Donka Panayotova in August 2000, whole Central and Eastern Europe has followed the example and today majority of the Roma children in Vidin study in the mainstream school system, outside the segregated Roma school in the Roma Neighborhood.

   In the past year, the work of NGO Organization Drom has been to create conditions for access to housing for Roma in the Roma Neighborhood “New Road” in the town of Vidin. Thanks to the collaboration with the Municipality Council and Municipality of Vidin, owners of houses in the Roma neighborhood can purchase the municipal land on which the houses were built by signing a contract with the Municipality and paying the fee, they can receive a so-called Tolerance Certificate. This is not a proprietary document, but it can protect the Roma from eviction. Thus, paying 15 leva per sq.m. (based on the tax assessment of the dwelling), people may remain living in the houses they have built. Under the Territorial Settlement Act, a building is legal if it is built on its own land and on pre-approved construction permission papers.

   Dr. Krasimir Kanev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, took part in the conference and he shared various case studies from other cities in Bulgaria, praising the Vidin Municipality decision, regarding legalization of the Roma houses.

   Mr. Genadi Velkov, Chairman of the Municipal Council, described the experience of local authorities in legalizing the illegal houses in the Roma neighborhood and the approved Ordinance, which allows the owners of buildings to participate in an auction for the purchase of the municipal land on which they are built.

   Ms. Svetlana Krasteva from the Vidin State Archives, briefly presented at the event the archive documents, which showed the first settlements and subsequent relocations of the Roma in the city, as well as the division of the neighborhood, named differently in the years to come.

   An interesting sociological survey was conducted by NGO Organization Drom with 120 Roma households from the Roma Neighborhood in Vidin during the period between November 28th and December 4th, 2017. The survey results were presented at the conference by Ms. Donka Panayotova, who emphasized that the survey is representing the whole neighborhood because the methodology included a randomized sample. The scope of the survey included 100 Roma households who live in illegal houses/buildings and Roma households who live 20 legal houses/buildings. Ms. Panayotova emphasized that the survey results show that 11 % of the Roma houses were made of mud, whereas 4 % of the Roma households use candles to light their homes. It was also shown that at least one representative of each of the households is abroad and the birth rate has marked a drastic decline as there is one child (below 15-year-old) in a household. Moreover, each third Roma household, which consists of 4-5 members, lives in one or two rooms. It is very important to mention also that every second Roma household is ready to pay the fee of 15 BGN per sq.m. in order to receive the Tolerance Certificate which will avoid eviction threat.

   Ms. Tanya Kaltzeva, lawyer of NGO Organization Drom, explained during the conference the mechanism for legalization of the houses, spoke about the achievements and what is foreseen, including cooperation with the Bulgarian Helsinkii Committee on issues related to human rights protection in Northwest Bulgaria. At the beginning of this year, NGO Organization Drom signed a partnership agreement with the Bulgarian Helsinkii Committee for regional representation, which is unique in Bulgaria.

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