Macedonia provides boost for vulnerable citizens


Macedonia is focusing on boosting social housing initiatives as part of its construction projects.

By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 10/01/13


New apartment buildings are under construction in Skopje as part of Macedonia's social housing initiative. [Aleksandar Pavlevski/SETimes]

In an effort to provide assistance for vulnerable groups of citizens, the Macedonian government's social housing initiative is giving at-risk populations access to affordable apartments.

The programme will focus on children without parents or parental care, recipients of social or financial aid, people affected by natural disasters, the disabled, single parents with minor children and members of the Roma community.

Government spokesman Alexander Georgiev told SETimes that 10 percent of the apartments built by the state construction company will be set aside for social housing, with the remaining 90 percent sold at market prices.

Current plans call for the construction of 34 buildings with 1,753 apartments in 26 cities by 2014. The apartments cost 24 euro cents per square metre, and the money is used for maintenance. In the past two years, 293 apartments have been built and occupied.

"I got an apartment from the state in the settlement [of] Yurija in Gorce Petrov," Zoran Karanfilovski, a married father of two, told SETimes. "This help for me means new life and great encouragement. I and the other hundreds of people who got these apartments, which are fully equipped with furniture, we are simply overjoyed because our life dream came true, and it is our own home."

Future, a social risk NGO, told SETimes that "interest is huge" in the social housing units, adding that distribution of the apartments was done in a transparent fashion.

"The government seeks granting of apartments to be complementary with other services to help users to become independent, rather than being dependent on the state," Milka Olevska, a sociologist from Skopje, told SETimes.

Macedonia has offered other services to disadvantaged citizens, including free library access, public kitchens and accommodations during the winter months.

"In municipalities where the buildings are built, municipalities waive payment of communal fees and assist in construction of infrastructure," Minister of Transport and Communications Mile Janakieski told SETimes.

Starting this year, the law ensures employment for children without parents.

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"Regardless of which government is in power, we want the employment of these individuals not to depend on the will and consciousness of [others]," Prime Minister Nikoa Gruevski said. "By law it will become a systematic solution according to which at least 10 children a year … will be employed [under] a special programme that will give them an advantage because they are in an unenviable situation."

Other countries in the region also have embraced social housing. Serbian Minister of Construction and Public Works Velimir Ilic said apartments are being built in six cities for single mothers and children whose parents died during the war.

In Montenegro, there are plans for 5,000 apartments to be built by 2015, and Bosnia and Herzegovina has awarded about 200 apartments to the disadvantaged for 50 euro cents per square metre a month.

"Helping vulnerable groups positively influences democratic society," Olevska said. "Vulnerable groups, with assistance, are placed in the active mainstream of society, not on the margins, which helps to make a positive contribution in life rather than stray into crime and lawlessness that often happens with these groups of people."

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