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Low-rise Russia
Yelena Nikolayeva

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev set the task to radically increase housing construction to 140 million square meters a year. High-rise housing construction industry is incapable of promoting such a breakthrough for several reasons: lack of construction materials, absence of the necessary construction machinery, shortage of skilled personnel, and insufficient infrastructure. Low-rise housing construction can help. Priority national project Affordable and Comfortable Housing for Russian Citizens is to promote the fulfillment of the tasks set by the president.

Yelena L. Nikolayeva, president of the National Agency for Low-rise and Cottage Construction (NAMIKS) and chairwoman of the commission for social issues and demographic policy of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation speaks about prospects and problems of low-rise housing construction.

– What are the advantages of low-rise housing?

– Low-rise settlements can be built across the whole of the country by engaging small and medium-sized businesses, local human and other resources. We can thus use our wealth of forests, develop timber production, and build environment-friendly wooden houses adapted to climatic conditions where a healthy generation will grow up. Low-rise housing construction demands lower labor input, as modern technologies allow building without heavy construction machinery while cement is often necessary only for the foundation. The applied modern technologies decrease construction time and costs and help quickly resolve the problem of affordable housing provision to the population. And finally, low-rise housing construction can promote the creation of a new quality habitat including both comfortable houses and the necessary infrastructure. A house of your own is a sign of the middle class, i.e. low-rise construction actually lays the foundation for the emergence of the middle class as the basis of the state.

– How do you calculate the price of a house?

– 25 percent of the price comprise the prime cost of the house, while 15 percent are the finishing costs, 35 percent are the costs of engineering communications to the settlement and inside it, and another 25 percent are the cost of land with all re-registration expenses. I can definitely estimate the price to be in the limits of 20-25 thousand rubles per square meter (and even less). It is a real housing price if two conditions are met: land is provided for free and the regional budget pays for the engineering infrastructure buildup to the settlement. Developer’s profit is included.

– How do you decrease the price of a square meter?

– Several tasks have to be accomplished at the same time. I will briefly list them:
• Simplified land provision procedure;
• Decreased time for the issue of construction permissions;
• Construction of social, transport and engineering infrastructure at the expense of state funds;
• Introduction of industrial technologies, the so-called pre-fabricated technologies that shift a major work volume to workshops and thus increase construction quality, save money, raise energy efficiency and environment friendliness;
• The production base has already been created in Russia. There are over 600 facilities producing economical, energy efficient and quickly assembled low-rise houses. However they operate to less than half capacity. A major task today is to provide full load to them.

– Which technologies are used in construction today?

– Today such materials are becoming popular, as foam and aerated concrete, leave-in-place foam polystyrene form. Skeleton-panel housing construction is developing, as well as the use of shave-cement blocs and light thin-wall steel constructions. The technologies are very economical and the cost of a square meter begins from 12,000 rubles. The technologies allow erecting a house in a brief time, which is specifically important as small construction companies are short of the working capital, and using local materials and working without large and heavy construction machinery...

– How do the state and business interact in low-rise construction?

– The main task of the government in the framework of the state-private partnership is to finance social, transport and engineering infrastructure at the expense of federal and regional construction programs. For developers the state-private partnership means the design of prudent territorial planning schemes, which allow to plan regional development zones in advance and provide investment sites for housing construction projects, including low-rise ones, with due account of transportation network development, labor migration, and investment programs of natural monopolies. This is the basis of the state-private partnership, which is a clear and open forecast of state interests, transparent investment activities, and risk management.

– Where shall low-rise construction develop? On what lands? Is there a lot of free land in Russia? Who analyzed and assessed the possibility of its use?

In 2009 the joint effort of the government and businesses prevented a sharp fall in construction. The amount of total commissioned housing space exceeded the forecast of the Economic Development Ministry, as 59.8 million square meters of housing were built instead of predicted 52 million square meters. The share of individual housing construction in Russia for the first time in modern history comprised 47.8 percent. The share of low-rise construction exceeded 50 percent.

– Russia is the biggest country in the world, but has registered only 1.1 percent of land. Therefore, there is definitely no shortage of land. At present the Fund for the promotion of housing construction is actively operating. Thanks to the contribution of Russian regional authorities the Fund collected information on over a thousand inefficiently used land plots that are owned by the federal government and are suitable for housing or other construction. It has been decided this year that nearly a hundred of land plots with a total territory of close to 2.25 thousand hectares will be used for housing construction that will result in over five million square meters of housing space. In 2010 the Fund plans to increase the figure to 12 million square meters.

From 2012 not less than 30 percent of housing in the Russian Federation shall be erected on land plots engaged by the Fund. Sixty percent of housing erected on the lands of the Fund shall be low-rise. Most attractive territories located 5-15 kilometers from city boundary depending on the size of its population shall be provided for low-rise housing construction. Director General of the Fund for the promotion of housing construction Alexander Braverman has numerously stressed that.

– What are the prospects of low-rise housing construction? Can we speak about exact or approximate deadlines when Russians will be finally provided with housing?

– The year of 2020 is the main reference point determined by the national leadership. The basic parameters of the program include:
• Up to 70 percent increase of the share of low-rise housing space that meets modern energy efficiency, ecology and comfort requirements and needs of various groups of the population in the total space of commissioned housing, which is to grow to 141 million square meters by 2020. That means low-rise housing will comprise 98.7 million square meters;
• At least 50 percent increase of the share of construction with the use of modern wooden house erection technologies (on the basis of deep timber processing) in the total space of commissioned low-rise housing;
• Quality improvement of housing conditions that will provide modern and separate housing to most of the families (apartments in high-rise and low-rise buildings and individual houses). Housing space per capita provision shall comprise close to 27 square meters by 2020;
• Up to 60 percent increase of the share of families capable of buying housing with their own or borrowed funds by 2020. The tasks are global but feasible if all participants in the business properly cooperate.

By Vera MIKHALEVA

 
 
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