Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss formation of commercial-use homes stock

    It is necessary to take into account interests of citizens while forming the stock of rented apartments in Belarus. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko gave the instruction at the government session held on 26 November to discuss the formation of the stock of commercial-use homes.

    Taking part in the session were Head of the Belarus President Administration Andrei Kobyakov, Vice Premier Anatoly Kalinin, Chairman of the Minsk City Executive Committee Nikolai Ladutko, and Minister of Housing and Utilities Andrei Shorets.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that home construction has been a key priority in Belarus for many years. “We’ve just recently said that we will use a new way — the construction and expansion of the stock of rented apartments. The idea has necessitated the development of the relevant legal act in order to introduce new processes into the legal environment,” noted the President. “Before making the final decision on this vital matter I’d like to hear whether everything has been balanced in this regard. We should avoid having to introduce amendments, addenda in a month or six as it sometimes happen. It will be even worse if we have to go back on the decisions that we may make today”.

    The government has prepared a draft decree to regulate relevant aspects of housing relations. According to the head of state, the proposals will introduce major changes into the housing policy. In essence a new approach will be introduced to shaping the stock of commercial-use homes or so-called rented apartments.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned several measures the draft document outlines. First and foremost, all the occupied company-owned apartments and special residential premises are supposed to be converted into rented apartments by 1 April 2014. After 1 July 2016 the stock of rented apartments will be expanded to include the state-owned apartments that citizens are unwilling to privatize. The number of such apartments is close to 330,000 now. “If they fail to privatize their apartments, we will convert the state-owned apartments into rented ones with the relevant rent,” said the President.

    A list of citizens eligible for rented apartments will be compiled. If a citizen decides to move into a rented apartment, he or she will no longer be recorded on the waiting list for better homes. “It goes without saying that it will happen if citizens opt to move into a rented apartment. Moreover, we have agreed that rent rates will be roughly half of the market price. Naturally moving into a rented apartment will be taken as an improvement of living standards. No more preferences and the waiting list after that,” said the President.

    Then rent rates have to be determined. The Minsk City Executive Committee and the oblast administrations will be able to introduce multiplying coefficients.

    The grounds for putting people on the housing register will be revised for the sake of determining real needs of individuals and ruling out unjustified claims. “It is correct, too. We don’t need frauds. Belarus is one of the few countries where such preferences are available, where the state allows citizens to build homes on preferential terms. Therefore, everything has to be honest and fair in this regard,” stated the Belarusian leader.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that it is necessary to once again go through these proposals taking into account interests of citizens. In particular, the head of state was interested in what procedures will be available to those, who have not privatized their homes yet, and whether the process involves too much bureaucracy. “Do you intend to offer social homes to those, who cannot pay for privatization because they don’t have the means or relatives? I am willing to know whether rental fees will be fair and affordable,” the President wondered.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention of the Head of the Belarus President Administration to the need to straighten out the procedures used to record people in need of better homes. “Drawbacks are aplenty and we have talked about it more than once,” noted the President.

    According to Minister of Housing and Utilities Andrei Shorets, interests of citizens will not be damaged during the formation of the rented housing stock. “The draft decree has been developed specifically with this in mind. An entire suite of measures have been provided to protect the citizens, who will not be able or who will be unwilling to privatize their apartments due to any reasons. If a family or an individual has the right to a social home, then upon request the apartment can be given social status, with no rental fees collected,” said the Minister.

    Andrei Shorets said that citizens will be able to apply for privatization by 30 June 2016. The authorities will take a month to give an answer. After that the citizens will have virtually another year to privatize their home.

    “I think we have virtually 2.5 years ahead of us and we can go through the privatization procedure without worrying at all. The relevant services are ready for it,” assured the Minister.

    In his words, in line with the draft decree rental contracts will be signed for a period of five years with the right to prolong the contract. At present there are over 2,000 rented apartments in Belarus. For now those represent primarily the pre-owned market but in the near future the number will drastically increase thanks to the construction of new rented homes.

    All in all, the head of state approved the draft decree the government had prepared and gave concrete instructions to prepare a set of measures to implement the decree with minor alterations. For instance, the draft decree initially suggested putting young families on the housing register on conditions equal to those granted to everyone else. However, the President overruled the novelty and young families will be put on the housing register the way it is done now.