The meeting’s agenda was focused on ways to improve land management.
In particular, the issues discussed included the designation of different forms of land ownership, the use of land, the need for a common information resource about land, the terms for granting land plots under ownership or under leases, and the use of land for housing construction.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We have gathered today to discuss ways to improve land use. As you know, it is a powerful factor in economic and social development, and at the same time one of the most complex and historically acute problems everywhere in the world, and in our country in particular.
We must admit that our land potential is still managed ineffectively. Reforms of this sector are proceeding very slowly and laboriously. The situation has gradually begun to change only in the past six or seven years. This is a great challenge for our country because Russia has never had private ownership of land, or only for a very brief period and even then in a limited form.
Today there is great demand for land in our country. More and more people are interesting in purchasing land to build homes or do business. However, both companies and individuals are constantly faced with an unreasonable amount of red tape. The President and the Government of the Russian Federation are bombarded with letters on this issue from all across the country.
People write that it is impossible to find information on available land, that they are in a position of powerless petitioners whose demands and needs are ignored, and that it takes three or more years to get a plot of land. As a result, land remains unused and is not working for anyone’s benefit. The high-handedness and corruption of officials greatly inhibit the full-fledged development of land relations in Russia. And as a result, this slows the progress of the country as a whole.
”We need to create a new model of land use that will be transparent and convenient for businesses and individuals. There must be a clear understanding of what you can build and where, and what restrictions exist on the use of a site.“
It is abundantly clear that there is need for additional measures to remove the barriers that prevent people from obtaining and using land plots freely and without red tape. That's why we have included this issue in the agenda of the State Council Presidium meeting.
I think this is one of our first attempts to resolve issues in this area. We need to work through all the aspects properly, and I will tell you why: we have (and I have already talked about this) a historic chance to resolve the housing problem once and for all. If not completely, which probably can’t be achieved anywhere in the world, then we can radically improve the situation, but we will never be able to succeed without addressing the land issue.
The Presidium Working Group has reviewed the application of land legislation in practice. The report that has been submitted analyses the main aspects in detail, and we will discuss them today.
The first issue is the designation of different forms of land ownership. There is still a great deal of confusion because the process of identifying areas to be reserved for state needs and designated for use by the federal government remains unfinished. A large amount of land is simply left idle. We are not rich enough to keep so much land in reserve for decades. Therefore, in respect of under-utilised land we must take action and demand a clear justification for the land from the agencies and organisations that have the use of millions of hectares.
If the land is not working, let's give it on to other owners, including municipalities, which have a better understanding of local needs and are capable of deciding where to build a house and where to plant potatoes or to use the land in some other way for the benefit of the people and the country.
”The lack of information and transparency is the main cause of corruption, which literally permeates the land market. We must reverse this situation and provide every individual with the opportunity to find information about any available or used land plots. ‘
Of course, the local authorities have the obligation to use the ‘one stop’ principle in their work and act only in people’s interests, and we must never create a situation where we move a problem from one level to another while changing nothing.
The second issue we must analyse carefully is land categories. The principles of state policy on land use for 2012–2017 were adopted in March 2012; they provide for removing from legislation the principle of designating land categories based on its intended purpose. It is obvious that the current system is outdated and we need to create a new model of land use that will be transparent and convenient for businesses and individuals. There must be a clear understanding of what you can build and where, and what restrictions exist on the use of a site; it is also necessary to provide for the institutions that will be responsible for preserving the most valuable and protected reserves and farmland. I look forward to hearing your proposals on these issues today.
The third area is the formation of a single information resource on land. Unfortunately, this information is currently not open to the public. Department heads, employees of various government bodies and all sorts of intermediaries swarming around them have virtually monopolised this information, and it is impossible to gain ownership of even abandoned plots without access to this information.
The lack of information and transparency is the main cause of corruption, which literally permeates the land market. We must reverse this situation and provide every individual with the opportunity to find information about any available or used land plots. What is so secret about that? And if there is a secret, it must be justified. I know there are many so-called “secret” land plots, which stand idle for years and nothing goes on there at all.
This problem will be partially solved with the implementation of the construction industry road map. I am open to further suggestions on the organisation of a single database on land and public access to it.
”We have set an ambitious target for the next eight years: to provide affordable housing to 60% of Russian families in need. This means that we must greatly increase construction volumes, especially with regard to economy class housing.“
Fourth, the terms of granting land plots under ownership or leasing schemes. Today they do not stand up to scrutiny in terms of the timeframe involved and the registration procedure. I have already mentioned this at the start of my address. It is clearly necessary to introduce as quickly as possible open tenders based on the applications from legal entities and individuals.
Land Code already stipulates that it is the obligation of local authorities to hold such tenders, but this can be applied only to land plots that have been registered. However, a clear obligation to register a land plot has not been stipulated, and it is not always easy to allocate the funding for this purpose in the local budget. I have the impression that sometimes the funding is not allocated with the express purpose to preserve the status quo. All these obstacles have to be addressed, including at the legislative level.
The fifth challenge is the use of land for housing construction, and I have already talked about this. Let me remind you that we have set an ambitious target for the next eight years: to provide affordable housing to 60% of Russian families in need. This means that we must greatly increase construction volumes, especially with regard to economy class housing.
Currently the principle of infill development governs the allocation of land plots, especially in or near large cities, where there is a well-developed infrastructure in place. We will not solve the problem with this approach, so we need to move as quickly as possible to integrated development and strict planning regulations closely aligned with the engineering and social infrastructure. It is important for any area: for rural areas and suburban areas where there is great demand for low-rise construction.
Let me remind you that land plots for housing construction allocated to large families must be provided with the necessary infrastructure, as we have agreed. People simply can’t get the money to pay for it. However, it is not done in all regions, and as a result, if there is no infrastructure, families are forced either to incur significant expenses, or to give up their hopes to own their own home.
I ask all speakers to focus special attention to the integrated development of land; we will also talk about the experience of the Housing Construction Development Facilitation Fund. I stress that it is essential not only to allocate land but to make sure land plots are available in the areas where there is a demand for housing, land plots that people can use and companies can build profitable businesses.
Colleagues, I have named only a limited number of areas that we need to discuss. This is not an exhaustive list of land issues that are currently considered to be the most acute and problematic. I believe that they will be at the focus of our discussions today and in the future. This meeting is intended to be our first attempt to address them and we will return to analyse them more closely on other occasions.
Thank you for your attention.