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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Khrushchevka Replacement Project delayed again

76 million square meters of floor space remain appallingly sub-standard
18 November, 2010 - 00:00
EXPERTS SAY UKRAINIAN LEGISLATION LACKS A PROVISION THAT WOULD ENABLE AUTHORITIES TO FORCE KHRUSHCHEVKA TENANTS TO RESETTLE. THIS IS BUT ONE OF THE FACTORS HOLDING BACK THE REPLACEMENT PROJECT / Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Khrushchevka is the popular name for a five-story building with several entrances and without an elevator or garbage chute; as a rule, each floor contains four flats. In the 1960s, the widespread construction of such buildings was Nikita Khrushchev’s proposed solution to the housing problem in the Soviet Union.

Today’s Ukrainian government plans to tear down these monstrosities and replace them with modern housing projects. Volodymyr Yatsuba, Minister of Regional Planning and Development of Ukraine, says the first high-rise condo will be built in 2011 in Kyiv. The Khrushchevka Replacement Project relies on the Moscow experience of getting private investors involved. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov succeeded in replacing 6.5 million square meters of old floor space with 13 million square meters in modern apartment buildings.

Yatsuba insists that Khrushchevka tenants will receive apartments with all modern conveniences right beside their old homes, and that such new constructions will be located within 300 meters from the old structures, under the existing regulations; that these tenants will move into new apartments at the model 1:3 ratio, what with new corridors, toilets, and bathrooms. In other words, the new apartments will be three times larger than the old ones. He didn’t specify the cost of this project.

The Kyiv City Council doesn’t share Minister Yatsuba’s enthusiasm concerning the timeframe. Oleksandr Popov, first deputy head, Kyiv City State Administration, declared: “I don’t believe that this replacement project will start next year, given the financial situation. These [construction] projects must be made attractive to businessmen, so they will invest in them. Considering the current economic decline, I can’t visualize such investors next year. I think they will appear two or three years from now.”

Anatolii Berkuta, acting First Deputy Minister of Regional Planning and Development of Ukraine, says this ministry has long-since-made renovation projects for such obsolete housing areas in Kyiv, particularly on Marshal Hrechko Street; that such Khrushchevkas have to be torn down and replaced by the so-called pilot housing projects, to accommodate their te-nants, with apartment buildings erected nearby and put up for sale. This way such projects will pay back, with the developer using the proceeds to provide free floor space for the Khrushchevka resettlers. At the time such projects were developed a square meter of floor space had a totally different market price — it was higher and the developer could afford to carry out each such project.

Each such replacement project has to be made attractive to prospective investors. This can only be done after giving a fresh impetus to the domestic real estate market, Oleksii Kucherenko, ex-Minister of Housing and Utilities, told The Day, adding that his estimates point to one square meter in each such housing project being worth 1,500 dollars, with a net cost of 500 dollars. This price can be lowered by combating corruption.

There is another component without which such replacement projects will never work, namely public trust in the local authorities. “People must believe that they won’t be gypped,” says Kucherenko, and explains that in Moscow, such projects were based on the people’s confidence in mayor Luzhkov, and that in Ukraine the residents of old apartment buildings will have to sign waiver agreements — something no one will do without having that kind of confidence.

Another factor that impedes such projects is the absence in Ukrainian legislation of a clause whereby Khrushchevka tenants can be forced to resettle. “We’re working on this,” said Berkuta. From what The Day knows, these proceedings are included in the Housing Code bill, which is being revised at the Verkhovna Rada.

All these problems aren’t likely to be solved earlier than three years from now, says Kucherenko, and that then the first high-rise condos will emerge in place of Khrushchevkas. He believes that such projects will start being implemented in Kyiv, followed by Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv, considering that there are solvent buyers in these cities. Kucherenko’s estimates read that a total of 76 million square meters of floor space have to be replaced, considering the hazardous condition of those obsolete structures. This amounts to about one thousand old apartment buildings in Kyiv alone. He believes that the role the state can play in such projects is that of installing heating systems and upgrading the adjoining territories.

TO THE POINT

The Ministry of Regional Planning and Development (Minrehionbud) predicts a 25 percent increase in housing sales in 2010, up to eight million square meters. In 2009, this level was 6.4 million, 39 percent less than in 2008 (when it reached 10,496,000 square meters).

By Natalia BILOUSOVA, The Day
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