HERO: European partners launch a pilot project to support housing and financial inclusion of Roma in Bulgaria

12 June 2023

Peshtera – An innovative EU pilot project to support Roma communities in Bulgaria through housing and financial literacy is launched by the European Parliament (EP), the European Commission (EC), the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and selected implementing partners in Bulgaria. The project, established in 2022 and scheduled to run through 2024, aims to counter the socio-economic exclusion faced by Roma communities in Romania, Slovak Republic, and Bulgaria.

HERO_launch_june_2023According to the 2021 Population Census and Housing Census in Bulgaria, over 260,000 respondents self-identified as Roma, making them the third largest ethnic group in the country. However, other studies estimate that the number of Roma in Bulgaria could be as high as 750,000, which would represent over 10% of the population. The Bulgarian National Roma Strategy (2021 - 2030) highlights that 66.2% of Roma in Bulgaria live in poverty or are at risk of poverty.

Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of anti-Roma prejudice, leading to exclusion from education, employment, healthcare, and adequate housing. To address these challenges, cross-sectoral partnerships involving public, private, and civil society organisations are crucial in breaking the cycle of poverty and improving housing conditions for the Roma community. The HERO project is specifically designed to tackle these issues.

Under HERO, a total of €490,000 is allocated to facilitate the access of 200 individuals from marginalised Roma communities in Botevgrad, Peshtera, and Yablanitsa to micro-loans. Additionally, the project provides financial literacy and house renovation training, employment coaching, and mentoring. The implementation of the project in Bulgaria will be carried out by local partners, including the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation (TSA), Tokuda Bank AD, Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria, and Integro Association.

TSA, as the lead implementing partner, will manage the project in Bulgaria and provide employment assistance, such as identifying job opportunities and supporting Roma individuals in their job applications. Tokuda Bank will offer microloans and financial education, while Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria and Integro Association will provide home renovation training and assistance in obtaining necessary permits for home improvements.

Peter Pollák, Member of the European Parliament, said: “Improving the living conditions of the Roma is the key to their successful inclusion into society. The ambition of the HERO pilot project is to enable vulnerable groups such as Roma to finance their own housing through a loan to be repaid. It is a self-help construction project, which is also intended to help build their knowledge and skills and be employed in the labour market. I am very happy that Roma in Bulgaria also will have the possibility to benefit from it.”

Tomáš Zdechovský, Member of the European Parliament, added: “We started HERO as a pilot project in the Slovak republic and Romania. The project proved to be successful in giving Roma people the foundations to start a new life. I am delighted that we can expand to Bulgaria. Roma people all around Europe deserve dignity and affordable housing. We will not stop in Bulgaria, and I hope that HERO will become EU-wide. HERO is the best example of smart cooperation between policymakers, private stakeholders, and communities, earmarking funds where they are needed without incredible bureaucracy. We need more HEROes in the EU.”

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for Economy, noted: “I am proud that the European Commission is implementing this EU pilot in support of disadvantaged Roma communities as part of its broader social impact investment initiatives. I hope this will serve as a blueprint for further national and European programmes supporting inclusion and resilience, like the InvestEU Programme. I am pleased that we are collaborating with the European Parliament and the Council of Europe Development Bank in this important endeavour.”

Jasmina Glisovic, Head of Grant Operations and New Instruments Division at the Council of Europe Development Bank, said: “In an ongoing commitment to social justice and equality, the CEB is proud to announce the launch of the HERO project in Bulgaria. To ensure the success of this project, the CEB and other HERO implementing partners will establish partnerships with governmental bodies, banks, NGOs, Roma and non-Roma communities. By bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders, we aim to leverage resources, expertise, and knowledge to drive sustainable housing solutions, promoting inclusivity and empowering marginalised Roma communities.”

Andrey Novakov, Member of the European Parliament, stated: “The EU budget provides equal opportunities for an equal start. The impact of over €350 billion through cohesion policy is immense. However, pilot projects like HERO make a difference too because they invest directly in local communities and empower individual success.”

Sarah Perrine, CEO of the Trust for Social Achievement (TSA), stated: “TSA is committed to creating opportunities for every person in Bulgaria to reach their full potential. TSA was the first organisation in Bulgaria to pilot and successfully implement a new approach to formalising settlements and creating pathways to home and land ownership for the Roma community. The HERO project builds upon this experience and allows TSA to test a holistic and pioneering approach that has the potential to reshape the future for hundreds of children and families living in underserved communities. The collaboration with the CEB provides an opportunity to pilot and test this innovative approach in cooperation with Bulgarian local and national authorities, with the aim of finding a sustainable solution to improve living conditions for families in need.”

Yordan Mladenov, Mayor of Peshtera Municipality, emphasised: “The municipality has been collaborating with TSA for over 10 years to enhance the living conditions of Roma communities in Peshtera. TSA’s approach to addressing the issue is distinctive and provides a solution to long-standing problems, ultimately improving the lives of Roma in Bulgaria. I am eager to contribute to the pioneering methodology advanced by the HERO project and hope that it will bring about positive changes for numerous Roma individuals in the country and that other municipalities can learn from our experience.”


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Daniela Aydin

Set up in 1956, the CEB (Council of Europe Development Bank) has 42 member states. Twenty-two Central, Eastern and South Eastern European countries, forming the Bank's target countries, are listed among the member states. As a major instrument of the policy of solidarity in Europe, the Bank finances social projects by making available resources raised in conditions reflecting the quality of its rating (Aaa with Moody's, outlook stable, AAA with Standard & Poor's, outlook stable, AA+ with Fitch Ratings, outlook positive and AAA* with Scope Ratings, outlook stable). It thus grants loans to its member states, and to financial institutions and local authorities in its member states for the financing of projects in the social sector, in accordance with its Articles of Agreement.

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