The boom in housing construction in Bulgaria is the result of the country’s macroeconomic stability over the past few years, and also of the forthcoming accession to the European Union. This has stirred the real estate market, where prices have headed up for European standards. Investments in the construction business diminish, and the numerous construction companies build every single square metre in big cities. A lot of Bulgarians, whose financial potential and requirements have increased with the years, already replaced their concrete housing of the 1970s-1980s with the state-of-the-art building technologies of the 21st century. Still others have invested the considerable amount of finance they have in several housing real estates, a secure investment by all means. There are of course those who preferred the detached houses with colourful yards built in the best of Bulgarian traditions. According to statistics, the volume of construction begun in 2004 has doubled on previous year’s figures. In other words, in 2004 the foundations of some 5 780 housing and 440 administrative buildings were laid. The general opinion is that the quality of construction is good, despite the rush and the desire for quick return on investments.
Says architect Ivan Stanishev, President of the Union of Bulgarian Architects, “Construction is in a state of rapid development, and it is inevitable that quality suffers. Because of the investors’ wish for swift return on investments, and the market demand for sales, buildings are often sold as ‘green field investment’. It is one thing to buy a building when construction has been completed, and you can visit the site, and buy it only if you like it, and quite another thing to purchase something you have seen on blueprint. Very often investors replace the materials with inferior ones to make greater profit. In other words, one has no guarantee about the ready-made product. It is in this respect that the presence of the architect on site is instrumental. Unfortunately, architects have been deprived of this right, and their supervision is no longer necessary.”
Architects have been worried of late by the unusual intense and aggressive terms of the construction of hotels in Bulgaria’s biggest Black Sea and mountain resorts. What is more, some of the hotels are built directly on the beach. Experts have begun talking about overconstruction, which might in the end put foreign tour operators off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Says architect Ivan Stanishev, “We may even end up with a situation similar to the one in Spain, where bulldozers demolished hotels along the 200-metre long coast line, and this at the cost of 10 years of profit from the entire tourist business in the country. This campaign will be very costly, because the state will have to purchase all the terrains, and then pay the costs for the demolition of the hotels along the beach. We recommend that Bulgaria opts for introducing regulations that prohibit construction works some distance off the coastline, and also between the various buildings. Bulgaria is very seriously in danger of losing its charm, if the Black Sea side were densely built. Similar trends have been observed in the mountain resorts, and I am afraid this might entail grave ecological repercussions.”
According to construction entrepreneur Plamen Beninski, it is still early to talk about a boom in housing construction. The boom is yet to come, he says, because in a few years’ time, Sofia and the other big cities in Bulgaria will have doubled their population. After 2007, the prices of housing per square metre will have rocketed to European standards, indeed.
Says he, “The quality of construction has improved considerably compared to several years ago. Several levels of control have been introduced, and the construction materials have been improved, some of them directly imported. Last but not least, construction technologies have advanced. I had the chance to see for myself how good the quality of Bulgarian housing construction is. Several years ago, in my capacity of Chairman of the Branch Construction Chamber, I paid a visit to the site of the big earthquake in Turkey. What I witnessed there made me believe Bulgaria was light years ahead in terms of quality construction. But it is not only buyers and entrepreneurs who are in a hurry, and the state should do a lot more to fulfill its commitments infrastructure-wise.”