President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
We have only one item on the agenda for today’s meeting of the Council on National Projects, but it is a very important one – the state of progress of the housing project and its future prospects. Helping our people resolve their housing problems is one of our biggest social priorities, and is something we have been working on and will continue to do so. The situation today makes our task more complicated, but we have a duty nonetheless to continue our efforts, and this is what prompted the decision to hold this meeting.
Last time the Council met (last December), we outlined three main areas of work for 2009–2010. I will go over them now and make some comments.
The first area is development of mass-scale housing construction. The amount of new housing brought onto the market increased by around 4 percent over the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year. At first sight, this seems to be not a bad result. But we are well aware that this increase is largely due to the pace of construction we reached last year and the work that was already underway. I would therefore like to hear today your views on measures we can propose to keep stimulating construction of affordable housing, the mechanisms we could use, and the results we expect to achieve.
Particularly attention-worthy are the experimental investment projects for comprehensive territorial development. These projects encompass not only housing but also social facilities and engineering and transport infrastructure. Our task is to put in place for these projects the necessary technical, legal, organisational and financial mechanisms. In doing this, we need to take into account the difficulties we are currently going through. But in our work on the national projects we already developed and tested these mechanisms overall and it must be said that, for all the difficulties, work on the housing project has gone ahead quite rapidly and confidently so far.
Carrying out the housing project also requires us, of course, to introduce new industrial housing construction technology. This is something we have discussed on a number of occasions. Our outdated house building factories need mass-scale replacement, and this will require the combined efforts of private investors and the state.
The Housing Construction Development Facilitation Fund is now up and running. The Government has already approved decisions to transfer land with total area of more than 500 hectares to the Fund for housing construction. This is just the beginning, of course.
Housing built on this land consolidated by the Fund needs to meet two conditions. First of all, it needs to be cheap. Of course, what constitutes cheap housing is a flexible notion, but the criterion we are using at the moment is that this year, it should not cost more than 30,000 roubles [around USD 1,000] per square metre. Second, it should be designed according to the highest energy-efficiency and environmental standards. These demands should be written into the standards and technical regulations currently applied. As far as I know, one of the main technical regulations in this area is currently before the State Duma. The quicker we get these regulations into force, the easier it will be to ensure that these environmental and engineering requirements are taken into account.
The second area in the national project was outlined as state support for demand on the housing market. This covers mortgage loans, fulfilment of the state’s obligations towards certain groups of the population, the obligations it took on a while back.
I remind you that one of my first executive orders was to ensure that all Great Patriotic War veterans and invalids are provided with housing by May 1, 2010. That is, all those who need their housing conditions improved and joined the queue before March 1, 2005. I want to ensure each one of these people individually that we will fulfil our obligations towards each and every one of them before the next Victory Day, that is, before May 9 next year.
I have signed a federal law increasing the size of housing provided through federal subsidies. The norm will now be 36 square metres instead of 22. The money for this increase was planned in the budget a long way back, and so we need to start putting this measure into practice immediately, all the more so as a lot of time has already been lost.
We also plan this year to provide an additional number of military servicemen with housing. The document I have says there are 28,000 servicemen on the list for housing provision, but the real number is not 28,000. We agreed on 45,000, almost twice as many. We will build service housing, and also housing for servicemen retiring from the armed forces. People who have spent their lifetimes serving in the armed forces should be guaranteed a home waiting for them when they return to civilian life.
I also want to discuss the situation with housing in rural areas. We have a separate programme here. Some results have been achieved over these last years. We need to keep up the pace and keep working, despite the difficulties.
On the question of long-term mortgage loans, the situation here is complicated of course. Funds from the Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending should help to maintain at least the minimum needed volume of loans at acceptable interest rates. The state is continuing its support for people with mortgages to pay off, not only those who have lost their jobs, but also others who have ended up in difficult circumstances for various reasons. I would also like to hear your views on this matter in more detail today.
Finally, another area requiring our attention is that of raising the quality of our housing stock and housing and utilities infrastructure. I remind you that in November 2007, we established a state corporation, the Housing and Utilities Reform Facilitation Fund. Its job is to develop competition in the sector, spread best practice around the country, and help advance housing and utilities reform. The fund’s programmes on complete overhaul of apartment buildings and resettling people from housing unfit for habitation are particularly relevant. This is an example of how the crisis has enabled us, or rather forced us, to be more frank, to find effective solutions to several longstanding problems at once. By tackling the problem of housing no longer fit for habitation we are supporting the construction industry. By financing 95 percent of the complete overhaul of apartment buildings we are giving guaranteed work to housing and utilities sector specialists. At the same time, we expect residents to show initiative and start learning to how to organise their apartment buildings and address their problems on their own. A similar mechanism should be introduced for low-rise housing too, where possible.
There is particular demand for these kinds of non-standard approaches today. We approved a decision to allow the maternity capital [federal subsidies for multiple-child families] to be spent early on paying off mortgage loans and interest payments, and 56,000 people have already made use of this provision. This represents a total of around 15 billion rubles [approximately 500 million USD]. It is very good that this mechanism has been approved and is up and running. Once the general law on the maternity capital comes into force next year, people will be able to use it for these purposes without any restrictions at all.
It is important to give families in the regions a timely choice of decent modern and affordable housing options. This is an issue I particularly call to the regional leaders’ attention.
As for how effectively the federal money allocated by various agencies and institutions to housing construction is spent, this is a matter requiring careful coordination of state demand, and also the establishment of a common information and analysis data base that will cover the housing and land markets and the construction industry. All of this needs to be a common effort.
One further point I want to bring to your attention is that programs for specific population groups should receive the maximum possible financing next year. We must not allow any decrease in financing, at any rate. But at the same time, the state cannot be the only buyer on the housing market. This is obvious, even during a crisis period. We need to do everything we can to encourage other players on the housing market. We therefore need to distribute the available funds in such a way as to support mortgage loan schemes and facilitate development of social, utilities and engineering infrastructure. This is a complex task that the heads of federal agencies and regional leaders will have to address.
These then are the issues I propose we discuss today. It is worthwhile focusing on this one area that is of such great importance for all of our people.