More affordable housing planned, to help those on waiting lists for homes.
Two rented houses for High-Tech Park
Business analyst Anton Komarov moved to the capital from his native Vitebsk more than ten years ago. While studying at university, he lived in a hostel, then rented a room, then an apartment. He tells us, “At the end of last summer, we were invited to apply for a rented apartment. Within a few months, I was entering my new building in Skorina Street, with the keys in my pocket. Of course, it’s cheaper to rent an apartment from the state than from a private owner. I used to pay $500 a month for a one-room apartment, furnished and with all appliances; now, I pay $150 for an apartment of the same size, although it came only with wallpaper and linoleum on the floor.”
He laments that there are no shops within walking distance, having always chosen to live in districts with a great deal of infrastructure: shops, public transport links, kindergartens and schools. The nearest shop is now several stops away by public transport. While he appreciates that the rent is affordable, he’s finding it difficult to make the apartment ‘his own’. While colleagues and acquaintances manage to treat their flats as if they own them, he cannot settle, and has decided to save to buy an apartment.
One hundred applicants per apartment
In Western countries, people are used to the idea of renting: in Germany, only 40 percent of residents own their home, compared to about 85 percent in Belarus. However, rented housing allows the state to solve housing problems for citizens. About 15 years ago, it was agreed to expand the volume of rented housing, via new construction.
Last year 53,500 square metres of rented housing came into operation, with another 320,000 planned for this year: Minsk is gaining 102,700 of this; the Brest Region — 40,300; the Vitebsk Region — 24,600; the Gomel Region — 34,800; the Minsk Region — 37,200; and the Mogilev Region — 25,600.
The Departmental Deputy Head, Yelena Lukashevich, who heads the Department for Legal Work and Realisation of Housing Policy of Minsk Regional Executive Committee, tells us, “Rented housing is in great demand; in Minsk, there are more than 244,000 families who are in need for housing improvement and each rented apartment receives 50-100 applications.”
Rented housing is in great demand countrywide, with the Bereza District in the Brest Region among the first to embrace the trend. A building on Promyshlennaya Street is now ready for occupation, offering 37 flats. Of the 147 applications, most are from those with young families. Two similar buildings have been erected in the regional centre, and a third is planned, with enough demand to continue.
Galina Polyanskaya, an expert in housing policy, explains that the state benefits from being able to class rented apartments as ‘housing improvements’. Many would argue that it’s not the state’s job to solve citizens’ housing problems but that it should help people to solve these problems themselves — as is world practice.
While the state erects blocks of flats for rental at affordable prices, private owners set their prices based on demand. In time, with the development of the state fund for housing via commercial tenancy, the two should become closer. This year, a lot of people will receive state rental apartments at low prices, creating competition for private owners, who may be compelled to reduce prices. The question is how long it will take for this process to become evident.