Tag Archives: Permanent Apartments

Another Housing Deadline Missed

Or about to be missed.

Recall some background on Russia’s military housing issue.

In 2012, President Vladimir Putin publicly set his latest deadlines for resolving the military’s housing problems:  2013 for permanent apartments and 2014 for service apartments.  He just awarded himself an extra year on each.  They had been 2012 and 2013.  And 2012 and 2013 weren’t even his original deadlines.

When Sergey Shoygu came to the Defense Ministry last November, he faced at least 80,000 men, officers and former officers, in line for permanent apartments owed them on retirement.

The MOD says there were approximately 60,000 needing them at the beginning of 2013.

The Defense Ministry’s Chief of the Housing Support Department (DZhO or ДЖО) Sergey Pirogov has only been on the job about a month.  Previously DZhO’s deputy chief, he replaced his boss — Galina Semina — a Serdyukov appointee.

Sergey Pirogov

Sergey Pirogov

On 1 October, Pirogov told the RF Public Chamber that 41,400 servicemen will receive permanent apartments in 2013.  He claimed 16,200 already have this year, and 25,200 will receive them in November and December.

There is simply no way the MOD can put more than 25,000 in apartments during the balance of this year.  Despite Pirogov’s statement, there is probably no one who believes him.

Pirogov has called permanent housing a continually “flowing” problem; 24,700 new men joined the line in 2012 and 9,900 this year.

The MOD grapples with its housing problem using two instruments — apartments in their “natural form” or generally despised GZhS, State Housing Certificates.  It also hopes soon to make the One-Time Monetary Payment (YeDV or ЕДВ) a possibility.

If the Finance Ministry will agree on an amount, and the Duma approves some legislation this fall, the YeDV might start on 1 January.  It would be figured on the cost of a square meter of housing, years served, and household size, and presumably won’t be less than 3 million rubles and military men hope it’s a lot, lot more.

In mid-September, Pirogov effectively admitted the military department came to the idea of the YeDV in order to get around the problem of massive corruption in military housing construction.

He also appeared on Ekho Moskvy’s Voyennyy sovet program, and said:

“It’s perfectly obvious that the one-time payment to receive apartments is needed to resolve the issue at once.  Moreover, some universalism is necessary here, a universal mechanism should develop equal rights for all servicemen.  In our opinion, an exit from the difficult situation could be the transition to presenting one-time monetary payments, to acquire or build housing for servicemen, the so-called YeDV.  On what is this based?  Well, look here, according to those figures which the MOD leadership has more than once voiced.  Annually we are paying servicemen, at the disposition [of their commanding officers], a huge amount…  We can’t dismiss a serviceman before providing him housing, and are forced to put him in so-called disposition, and in this case the serviceman receives [rank] pay, he can use sanitorium-resort support, other privileges, given to servicemen, but he can’t be dismissed from the armed forces if he doesn’t have housing.  And in this instance, the MOD will spend up to 30 billion rubles a year supporting our servicemen.  It’s bitter to have to say that the problem of providing housing is long-running enough, and a serviceman can be at the disposition 5 or more years.  And here about that sum which I named, if we multiply it by a quantity of years, we get a simply enormous sum, which the MOD pays out fulfilling its obligations, this is the first conclusion.  The second conclusion is the resources which the MOD actually spends on construction are also enormous.  By any evaluation, it’s on the order of 30 billion rubles a year.  But consider that on average it takes 2-2.5 years to build an apartment block, half a year goes to the necessity of drawing up documents.  And it turns out that 3 years properly here this money is here, it’s hung up, it’s not realized so to say.  Yes, they spent it, on building apartments, they so to say laid it out in such a way.  But even the optimization of additional expenditures, particularly with apartment upkeep.  I also would like to introduce an example, in 2012 we had more than 10 thousand frozen for various reasons, not occupied by servicemen.  It’s natural so to say that these apartments require their upkeep.  But in this case, if we didn’t turn off or didn’t turn on the heat properly, this in turn means correspondingly then already essential repair to newly-built, but not allocated apartments.  And this sum here — it becomes in principle very large and very significant for the MOD.  And more than this, even the colossal expended amounts, about which I already actually spoke, deciding the question with housing construction, we aren’t resolving the problem.”

Lots interesting here . . . Pirogov talks pretty clinically about those left “at the disposition,” but it’s a difficult life for an officer living in his garrison on a fourth of the pay he had when he had a duty post.  And, Pirogov says, the situation goes on a long time and costs up to 30 billion rubles per year. 

Pirogov says the MOD has also been spending 30 billion on housing construction, including on 10,000 unoccupied apartments.  But construction hasn’t solved the housing dilemma.

Maybe the housing situation has improved somewhat, but, as Pirogov admits, it’s still a long way from solved.  And Putin’s deadlines come and go and come again.

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Defense Ministry Collegium

Wednesday Defense Minister Serdyukov presided over a collegium dedicated primarily to military bases, housing issues, and flight security, according to available accounts.

Mil.ru reported Serdyukov and his subordinates discussed the deployment of troops in military towns, the outfitting of garrisons, and preparations for the coming heating season.

Rossiyskaya gazeta was more forthcoming stating that the Defense Ministry owes fuel suppliers the not-small amount of 4.5 billion rubles for earlier deliveries.

According to the paper, the Defense Minister repeated past declarations that the military plans to consolidate its current inventory of 7,500 facilities into 300 by concentrating personnel and units in larger bases and garrisons.

Serdyukov, in Kursk, said five units numbering 5,000 men will move to a military town near that city.  But he also indicated new infrastructure (barracks, housing, medical, recreation, and parking facilities) has to be built to accommodate them.

So it’s not just as easy as ordering them to go there.

Mil.ru wrote that the Defense Minister called provision of permanent housing to former servicemen in accordance with the president’s and prime minister’s instructions a “priority mission.”  He provided more details:

“Since the beginning of the year, 34 thousand servicemen have received apartments.  The number of territorial housing support organs has increased, the normative-legal base is being completed, and the simultaneous transmission of essential information to all levels of housing presentation has also been organized in the interest of fundamentally improving resolution of housing issues.”

Serdyukov also demanded that military leaders eliminate “violations of time periods for making decisions on the receipt of distributed housing by servicemen.”

Serdyukov met with President Putin a week ago to discuss military apartments.

According to Kremlin.ru, Serdyukov told the Supreme Glavk some 54,000 servicemen were owed apartments at the start of this year, and 33,000 have gotten them.  He said the handover of 1,500 to 1,650 apartments is completed every week, and, at that rate, he believes the housing line will disappear by early next year, at the latest.

Then Putin asked his Defense Minister if he dealt with excess bureaucracy in the process of giving out apartments.  Serdyukov replied that 37 additional offices are open for this purpose, and paperwork requirements have been cut.

Putin and Serdyukov seem focused only on procedure and process problems in handing over housing.  But military men have refused large numbers of  proffered apartments because they aren’t ready to inhabit, lack essential infrastructure, or are simply in places they have no desire to live.  It is more likely than not housing will still be an issue well into 2013 and beyond.  For background on substantially larger amounts of money required and 167,000 men awaiting housing, see Kommersant.ru here and here.

But back to the collegium . . .

RG noted the talk about flight safety came against a backdrop of more new airplanes and helicopters arriving — reportedly 150 in 2010 and 2011, 190 thus far in 2012, and perhaps 1,200 over the next seven years.  RIA Novosti hinted the fatal crash of a new Mi-35 helo, blamed on weather and human error, might have prompted discussion of aircraft accidents.

Why They’re Empty

Well, mostly empty.  To its credit, Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya zvezda has tackled the issue of why Russian servicemen aren’t racing to take ownership and occupy permanent apartments offered to them.

KZ looked at two major military housing projects outside St. Petersburg — Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha — which between them have over 100 buildings and almost 9,000 apartments.  The paper says only 40 percent of these apartments have been accepted, and only 20 percent occupied.

Slavyanka South and Osinovaya Roshcha North of St. Petersburg

Slavyanka’s construction was complete one year ago, but its streets are empty and one very rarely sees pedestrians.  Its school just opened, but residents are still waiting for day care and have to drive preschool children elsewhere.  The builders claim there are relatively few defects, and they are repaired quickly.

A Street in Slavyanka Last March

Osinovaya Roshcha was built on Defense Ministry land — a former military town, and its apartments were turned over about six months ago.  Like Slavyanka, the dwellings in this development don’t suffer from too many problems.
 
KZ says now on average about 150 apartments are being accepted every week in Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha.  But this is still a slow pace.  Servicemen aren’t in a hurry to relocate because of the undeveloped infrastructure in both locations. 
 
There is no walking access to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, or bank branches.  The nonresidential first floors of buildings haven’t been sold or leased to businesses.  Neither the developer nor rayon administration can make arrangements for these commercial spaces because the property belongs to the Defense Ministry.
 
In Osinovaya Roshcha, it’s already clear there will be a major parking problem once the mikrorayon is fully settled.  Some parking was planned but hasn’t been built.  Also, the area depends on narrow two-lane Priozerskoye shosse as a main road.
 
KZ says the biggest headache in Osinovaya Roshcha, however, are nonworking elevators.  Some buildings are 17 stories, and current residents can count on having an operational elevator only one day per week.  The paper describes a Catch-22.  People don’t move in because elevators aren’t working, but there aren’t enough residents there to pay communal fees to cover the work of crews who fix the elevators.
 
The wait for day care centers keeps many families from moving.  They are supposed to open this month in Osinovaya Roshcha.  Older kids go to school in two shifts at an old building while they wait for a new one. 
 

KZ sums up:

“Judging by everything, people don’t intend to give up distant garrisons until life in the new mikrorayony is smoothed out and all essential infrastructure develops.” 

All in all, Internet photos seem to support KZ’s description of Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha as generally well-constructed, livable communities.  
 

A Promise That Can’t Be Kept

Shevtsova Holds the Military Housing Portfolio

Yesterday a number of media sources picked up an Interfaks story in which a Defense Ministry source alleges the military’s program of permanent housing construction for servicemen has broken down because a whopping 78,000 new apartments remain unoccupied. 

Yes, that’s not 33,000 as announced a couple weeks ago, but a reported 78,000.

Moreover, the Interfaks source says 30,000 service apartments are currently in a dilapidated condition.

The source concludes:

“It’s possible to state that the program to provide service housing to servicemen before the end of 2012 will collapse.”

The Interfaks interlocutor adds that inside the Defense Ministry they’re currently trying to determine who’s to blame for the housing mess.

Actually, the service housing deadline is now the end of 2013 according to Prime Minister Putin.  The permanent apartment suspense is the end of 2012.  But perhaps these are mere details.  The larger point is that the entire effort to furnish servicemen — active and retired — with apartments owed them under the law looks like it’s set to fail next year.

On the heels of yesterday’s very significant stat, Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova talked to ITAR-TASS today about putting off permanent apartments for servicemen and retirees until 2013.  She also said the 134,000 apartments (that both Putin and Defense Minister Serdyukov have cited) acquired between 2009 and 2011 is actually 116,000 plus 18,000 to be acquired in the next three days (by the end of 2011)!

Bottom line:  The political leadership’s 2010 and 2012 military housing promises weren’t kept.  The 2012 and 2013 promises can’t be kept given severe problems with apartments already built and rejected by military men.  In sum, the military apartment imbroglio may introduce its share of complications into Prime Minister Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin in the spring. 

Somebody Finally Went There

Komsomolskaya pravda's Viktor Baranets

Yes, somebody finally went to a very obvious place — during this week’s “live broadcast,” Viktor Baranets called Vladimir Putin on his failure to solve the military housing problem.  You may recall this recent post lamented Putin’s “free pass” on the unfulfilled promise of apartments for servicemen.

Gov.ru printed the transcript of Putin’s on-air session with reporters.  In a friendly manner, Baranets warned Putin he was about to ask an uncomfortable question.  And he couched his question like this:

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin many times said to the army and Russia that the housing problem for dismissed servicemen would be resolved by 2010.  The problem is not resolved.  Not one minister has apologized to the dozens of essentially deceived people, and you have not apologized.”

“Don’t you believe it’s necessary to give some apologies to the people and tell them the honest, objective time when this problem will really be resolved?”

Baranets continues:

“I’m addressing you as a candidate for Russian Federation President.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s perfectly obvious that a number of ministers have failed in their work in strategic areas.  This concerns the economy, and health care, and the army.  Nevertheless, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you still to this time haven’t given a very sharp critical evaluation of the work of these ministers.  Why are you afraid to replace them?”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, if you will dispose of the untalented and throw talented, principled ministers into the battle, you can believe, the people will be drawn to you, reforms will go forward.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am finishing my long speech and I want to tell you, you’ve already been told many times, why don’t you replace talentless, unprincipled ministers, who, by the way, are deceiving you.  They have really set you up when you talked about how the problem for housing the dismissed would be resolved.  They set you up.  This is a state crime, not just a crime against you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.  You need to make conclusions from this.”

“But if you have problems with selecting personnel, turn to us, we will help, including even me.”

Vladimir Putin Answers Baranets

After a little banter, Putin got to his answer.
 
Putin said his predecessor didn’t deal with the military housing problem, and, starting with those dismissed in the 1990s, the line for apartments just grew. 
 
His administration counted 70,000 ex-servicemen in need of housing, and handed out 111,000 apartments in 2008-2010.  But, said Putin, the Defense Ministry undercounted, and there were actually 150,000 men in the housing queue.
 
According to the Prime Minister, even though funds were available, the construction industry just didn’t have the capacity to build faster. 
 
In 2008, the dismissal of excess officers from the Armed Forces and the global financial crisis made housing military men more difficult.
 
But Putin concluded he still thinks the permanent apartment problem will be resolved by the end of 2012, and service apartment problem a year later.  He noted, however, that the line may get longer since there’s an issue of servicemen still waiting in municipal housing queues.
 
Then Putin turned to Baranets’ point about ministers.  Putin said he didn’t want to make them scapegoats since he is ultimately responsible, and cadre reshuffles mean lost months of work.  He said he prefers to straighten ministers out so they avoid mistakes.  Putin ended his answer by saying a time for renewing the government line-up is coming, and this will happen.
 
KP’s video of the Q and A is hereTV Zvezda’s is on Mil.ru.
 
So Putin’s defense against Baranets’ accusations of failure on the military housing problem boils down to claiming it’s a hard issue.  If able to follow up, Baranets might have asked why the Defense Ministry didn’t accurately figure the number of apartments needed or investigate the chances of getting them from Russia’s housing market.  Ultimately, this little repartee between once-and-future president and military correspondent is a small sign of how fear of Vladimir Putin has diminished.  It’s hard to imagine the same exchange five years ago.  Perhaps even five months ago.
 

Military Apartments Becoming an Issue

First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov

Wednesday First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov criticized a Primorskiy Kray deputy governor for the low quality of new housing for military men in Vladivostok’s Snegovaya Pad microrayon.  Shuvalov said the housing is cold, damp, and moldy.  According to RIA Novosti, Shuvalov heard complaints from a worker at Dalpribor, and rerouted his visit to inspect his building.

Shuvalov said:

“The builders have performed badly — cold air blows from the window frames and receptacles, from the registers of the radiator mountings.  The plastic windows throughout the apartment constantly “cry,” the wall in one of the rooms was quickly covered with mold.  The temperature in the apartment didn’t rise above 9ºC  degrees (48ºF).”

The press agency added that the walls of the apartment block’s service floor are cracked.

Shuvalov said the worker’s complaints are fully justified.  The kray’s deputy governor promised, of course, to sort out the situation.  But Shuvalov concluded the quality of completed construction needs a serious look, and added it’s impermissible that residents of new housing should have to make repairs.

Unusually frank comments from an unexpected source.  But it’s interesting Shuvalov didn’t hear other serious complaints about “Snegpa” . . . the files are full of 34 press articles about the microrayon’s problems in the past three years, though there hasn’t been time to write on them.  Most articles describe how this military housing was erected on Defense Ministry property, a former naval arms depot which exploded in 1992, without properly clearing and cleaning up old munitions and hazardous substances.

Newsru.com pointed this out.  Snegpa, it says, is a densely populated area of 50,000 retired and active servicemen and family members that has only one daycare (детсад) facility and one secondary school.  NVO (Sergey Konovalov) has written that Snegpa is one place where servicemen are refusing proferred apartments.

NVO doesn’t think anyone will be held responsible for the military housing mess.  Interesting that Shuvalov was willing to blame a regional official, but not fellow Team Putin member Defense Minister Serdyukov and his deputies. 

NVO also cited General Staff Chief Makarov at the OP on housing numbers.  He said, by the end of 2011, the military will have obtained 134,700 apartments for the military since 2009, but there were still 63,800 in line on October 1.

Colonel Sergey Zavarzin, writing for KP, counted a Defense Ministry claim of 175,600 obtained, or due to be, between 2009 and the end of 2012.  That number would be enough to close out the permanent apartment problem, if the military’s other numbers are accurate.  And only if ex-military men are actually willing to move their families into them.

According to ITAR-TASS, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin addressed military apartments at last weekend’s United Russia conclave.  The former reiterated his refusal to put servicemen out of the army without presenting them with permanent housing, if they are entitled to it (an easy call since it remains illegal to do so, and the military can also just warehouse them outside the org-shtadt)

Putin said the military housing program has to be seen through to the end:

“But, to this time, there are still many violations and much callousness, and these problems have to be brought to zero, to be fully eradicated.”

Pardon if these words have appeared previously, but the Russian approach toward military housing has been and is still a Soviet one — numerical targets, “storming,” poor quality, no life cycle or support planning, etc.

More on the Unwanted Apartments

Microrayon for Ex-Servicemen (photo: Podolsk.ru)

A Defense Ministry source tells Interfaks nearly 800 former officers and generals who served in the military’s central command and control organs are suing the department over its failure to allocate them housing in Moscow.

The news agency’s source says these men have a right to apartments in Moscow and are refusing the Defense Ministry’s offer of housing in the capital’s suburbs.  He says new buildings in Moscow Oblast lack infrastructure, schools, and medical services, and it’s difficult to find work. 

In particular, he notes more than 21,000 apartments are being finished in the close-in suburbs of Podolsk and Balashikha.  But many remain unoccupied.  The military department decided to build housing there in 2008 because the cost per square meter was 35,000 rubles — less than half the prevailing cost in Moscow.

The agency’s interlocutor says, in Podolsk, the military is building an entire microrayon with more than 14,000 apartments, and Balashikha will have more than 7,000.

President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov Toured Podolsk Military Housing in January

Interfaks added that Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, who holds the housing portfolio, acknowledged in September that there are 8,000 officers awaiting housing in Moscow, and indicated apartment blocks might be erected on Defense Ministry property in the city.  At the time, she also suggested that many of those who wanted apartments sooner were accepting ones in the nearby suburbs. 

Exactly a year ago, Defense Minister Serdyukov said the military could not afford to, and would not provide servicemen permanent apartments in Moscow, according to RIA NovostiMoskovskiy komsomolets at the time noted that the Defense Minister’s order clearly contradicted the Law “On the Status of Servicemen.”  As this NVO editorial indicates, Shevtsova’s September statements on Moscow housing came in the context of the flap over 160 generals and colonels who retired, probably in the hope of privatizing a service apartment, rather than obey orders to rotate to duties outside the capital.