Design for life

[b]In early April, the Belarusian Govern-ment approved its state housing policy for 2013-2016, focusing on how best to provide accommodation. Families on the waiting list are to be able to choose the arrangement which most suits their financial situation: a mortgage loan, a state order for housing, state-owned rental apartment; or a savings plan for building their new home. Volumes of housing construction will continue growing countrywide: last year, 4.2m square metres were built but, in 2013, up to 6.5m are expected, rising to 9.5m in 2015.[/b]
In early April, the Belarusian Govern-ment approved its state housing policy for 2013-2016, focusing on how best to provide accommodation. Families on the waiting list are to be able to choose the arrangement which most suits their financial situation: a mortgage loan, a state order for housing, state-owned rental apartment; or a savings plan for building their new home. Volumes of housing construction will continue growing countrywide: last year, 4.2m square metres were built but, in 2013, up to 6.5m are expected, rising to 9.5m in 2015.

Cheaper and more accessible
Financing is essential since just 40 percent of flats will be built with state support in future. The question is whether families can afford to pay for their own homes. One way of reducing prices is to build quickly and efficiently. Reduced rates on loans are also necessary (February saw home loan rates fall to 16 percent in urban areas and 14 percent in villages). In fact, housing policy is taking an absolutely new direction regarding financing, as the Head of the Housing Policy Department at the Architecture and Construction Ministry, Alexander Gorval, tells us. “The [latest] document outlines mechanisms to replace privileged state support, assisting families in improving their housing conditions. Housing mortgages are among these, with a national mortgage agency being established — based on experience in Russia and in other states,” he explains.
Cheap loans are the most attractive aspect of mortgages. Belarus has its own law on mortgages but, to ensure its efficiency, low inflation is needed. Mr. Gorval believes that mortgage loans will soon become more accessible, with the mortgage agency helping in provision. As foreign practice shows, successful mortgaging relies on a well-thought-out system.
When inflation falls and stabilises to a steady level, citizens will gain access to another attractive path to owning their own home: the construction savings scheme. This allows saving for a period of 5-7 years — generating at least 25 percent of the future price of a flat. The bank then contributes the remaining 75 percent, which can be repaid over many years. A system of housing construction bonds is also being formulated.
Low-rise housing is to make up 40 percent of new construction in future (up from 31.5 percent in 2012). Moreover, the state is to pay for infrastructure and propose a series of designs. This year alone, the Government has tripled its funding for building roads to service new housing.

Choices
Those without funds to build their own home may choose the ever more popular tenancy option. The first such homes — designed for rental from the state — were built last year in Belarus and 220 thousand square metres of similar housing is being constructed this year. By 2016, there should be a million square metres of such accommodation available annually.
The domestic housing policy also envisages the provision of housing to those deemed ‘vulnerable’. Capital construction departments will receive bank loans for the purpose, as Mr. Gorval explains. “Initially, the state order will cover only those on the waiting list who have the right to state support,” he tells us. The policy only allows for each citizen to receive state housing support once — be that through privileged loan terms or a subsidy for building a home. Exceptions will be made where children are born or adopted, as detailed in the relevant Presidential decree. Meanwhile, where people have ownership of state built housing, no private rental is allowed until five years after a loan is repaid.
Experts are viewing the new housing policy as an entirely fresh stage in the development of Belarusian accommodation. The previous concept (of 2008) has met its goals and a new document is now required, to cover housing construction and to identify those truly in need of state provision. The policy also covers utilities and pricing, helping families solve their housing problems.
By 2016, over 24 million square metres of accommodation will exist countrywide, providing 27 square metres per capita. Even today’s 25 square metres per capita makes Belarus a leader within the post-Soviet space, ahead of Russia (23 square metres), Ukraine (22) and Lithuania (15).
The guidelines are being used to create a detailed plan, developed by the Construction and Architecture Ministry and other state bodies, ready for Government review in late June.

By Lilia Khlystun
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