President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dmitry Nikolayevich, I signed the law on facilitating the development of housing construction in the country, which provides for the establishment of the fund with the same name. I have already discussed this subject on many occasions with you and the other members of the Government. The law follows on from my decree. I would like to hear from you how the Government plans to implement this law, what the first steps will be and what we can do to activate housing construction in general, given the negative tendencies that have emerged on the market of late under the influence of mostly external factors. This is the first subject I want us to look at.
Second, I also signed a law regarding a number of procedures related to the organisation of the Sochi Olympics. This is a comprehensive document. I would also like to hear from you now what decisions are being taken in this area and what the situation is in general with the Games’ organisation.
Minister For Regional Development Dmitry Kozak: Regarding the law on facilitating the development of housing construction, we were waiting for the law to take effect as soon as possible because the Government, as I reported to you earlier, in accordance with your instruction, started preparing in April for the law’s adoption and approved the corresponding regulations, above all regarding the need to suspend the distribution of unused land in order to make use of this land later in accordance with the new law.
Dmitry Medvedev: By the way, is this suspension being implemented as it should be? Is there not the risk that between the Government order being signed and the actual promulgation of the law, this land might all be sold off?
Dmitry Kozak: Yes, there have been signals about attempts to quickly sell off this land, but these are isolated cases. For the most part, this land is waiting to have its future use decided under the terms of the new law.
Dmitry Medvedev: But any attempts to dispose of this land now must be suppressed and the guilty parties made to answer. This is something we agreed on.
Dmitry Kozak: We are doing this. We are analysing what purposes the land at our disposal can be used for under the terms of the new law. We are dealing with around 30,000 plots of land.
It is hard at the moment to put a precise figure on their total area, but as far as agricultural land goes, 164 federal state enterprises and state agencies in the agriculture sector have a total of 370,000 hectares at their disposal. Most of this land is suitable for housing construction, above all for individual, low-rise homes.
Dmitry Medvedev: As my contacts with the governors confirm, and your contacts with the governors no doubt confirm the same, what is most valuable about this land is that it is close to the cities, which makes it easier to put the engineering infrastructure in place. In any case, people want to live close to the towns and not somewhere far away. These are the most valuable lands for housing construction.
Dmitry Kozak: The 164 enterprises in question are located mostly in the suburbs or even within the city limits. <…> Government documents for the law’s implementation have already been prepared. They concern the housing construction development facilitation fund’s management bodies, the membership of the board of trustees, and the membership of the inter-agency commission that will be set up under the law to decide on releasing land from federal ownership for housing construction. We will settle the question of the Russian Federation’s first priority contribution to the fund by October 1.
Dmitry Medvedev: What form will this contribution take? Should it be in the form of money or assets?
Dmitry Kozak: The initial contribution will be in the form of money. We have already agreed on the sources and made amendments to the budget. A draft government resolution on the contribution has already been prepared and as soon as the law takes effect we will be ready to begin its implementation literally the very next day.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very good. There was something else I particularly wanted to emphasise. You mentioned the number of unitary enterprises and so on. We both understand that land is our greatest asset. Russia is a big country, but land is nonetheless our greatest value. We therefore need to make an inventory of our land and see how much land we end up with in the fund and what amount of housing construction can be carried out on it, with the relevant permits, of course. We need to get an idea of what kind of figures we can expect. That is the first question.
Second, we realise that no construction can go ahead with out credits, but the credit market has become more difficult at present and we need to work together with the banks so that they are ready to accept this land as collateral. This is good land with good liquidity and we should be able to use it to get normal sums of money on normal terms.
Dmitry Kozak: It was precisely for this reason that we made the president of the Development Bank one of the members of the board of trustees.
Dmitry Medvedev: But other banks should also be involved. The Development Bank is a national institution, but we need to have federal banks, banks working throughout the country, and regional banks all involved in making loans available.
Dmitry Kozak: A decision has been taken to set up a special working group made up of banks’ representatives. This group will work under the aegis of the board of trustees and will draw up the conditions for making loans with these plots of land as collateral. <…> Small tracts of land will be transferred to regional management on condition that they adopt a programme for their infrastructure development and approve rules for their construction development and general town development plans. This is being done so as to ensure that the use of this land, which will remain in federal ownership until it is transferred for housing construction, is absolutely transparent, and to minimise all possibility of misuse of this land.
Dmitry Medvedev: Our goal in setting up the fund was to eliminate all misuse, at least in the case of the land the fund will be working with. And our other goal, of course, is simply to develop housing construction in general and give it new impetus. Alright then, good.
Dmitry Kozak: The second law, concerning the Olympics, is also absolutely essential and was drafted to address a number of problems, mostly of a procedural nature, that had arisen. The main issue, which this law resolves, was that of carrying out cadastre work on the land to be used for Olympics facilities.
Furthermore, at the demand of environmental protection organisations, with Olympic tenders still at the preparation stage, an environmental evaluation report on the project was returned at the end of May. But a number of procedural issues arose about accelerated procedures for carrying out the evaluation report. This has also been settled by the law’s provisions.
Dmitry Medvedev: As far as quality of the environmental evaluation report goes, the accelerated procedures being followed must not be to the detriment of quality. Environmental issues, including with regard to the Sochi Olympics, are one of our priorities, and you know this just as well as I.
Dmitry Kozak: We realise this, and the Government, as you know, decided recently to move the location of a number of sites at the suggestion of environmental organisations. New locations have been found for all of these facilities today. The ecologists have given them their approval, the new locations have been approved with the International Olympic Committee and work has already begun on site planning and preparing the project documents and estimates. This has all been done quite quickly. It took only three weeks and we will continue working in this fashion in accordance with the Prime Minister’s instructions to ensure that the environment does not suffer. We have added a further 16 environmental protection measures to the Olympic facilities construction programme. We still have some minor financial issues to resolve concerning other measures, but as far as this part of the programme is concerned, all issues have been settled.
Dmitry Medvedev: Preparing for the Olympics is a difficult undertaking, and given the location, the environmental demands and a whole host of other issues, it is to be expected that adjustments will have to be made from time to time. You should start working using the new rules right away, and I think that we will come back to this matter in a while and hold a meeting of the Council for Sport, and you will report then on what has been done and what changes, if any, are still required. This is the first time we are carrying out such a big project and we have to make sure everything is done properly, in accordance with all the modern technological and environmental demands, and it is therefore essential that we keep up a regular exchange of information.