Tag Archives: Service 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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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.
 

Serdyukov and Baranets

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Vladimir Belengurin)

Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets got to prompt Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov for a few statements on various topics in today’s paper.  It doesn’t seem like he really got to ask questions.

Serdyukov claims all but about 3% of GOZ-2011 has been placed, and 100% advances to the defense sector for 2012 will make for a smooth year of orders and production.  He “dodges the bullet” on not ordering Kalashnikovs.  He returns to the possibility of giving serving officers and contractees money to rent their own apartments, but this never worked well in the past.

Serdyukov says the first phase of military reform involved changing the Armed Forces’ org-shtat (TO&E) structure.  Now, he says, the second phase has begun, and it’s connected with rearming the troops.

On the state defense order (GOZ), Serdyukov says:

“During the formation of the Gosoboronzakaz, we had two issues with the defense sector — the price and quality of armaments.  We got them to open up their production “cost history.”  That is, they showed us everything transparently.  We needed to understand what they were getting and from where.  After long arguments, a compromise was found in the end.  We settled on quality criteria.  The Gosoboronzakaz is almost completely placed.  Of 580 billion rubles a little more than 20 billion was left ‘to settle.’  But we’ve also drawn conclusions from the lessons of this year.  Now the next Gosoboronzakaz will be formed in the Defense Ministry before December with such calculation that they will begin to fulfill it in January.  At the same time, we’re trying to make the Gosoboronzakaz 100% paid in advance to the defense sector.  Not another country in the world has such comfortable conditions for its VPK.”

Serdyukov says the Defense Ministry is still working on MPs, their regs, missions, training, structure, and size.  They’ll be responsible for discipline and order in garrisons and investigations.

The Defense Minister opines that Russia’s Israeli UAVs aren’t bad, but they are looking at Italian ones while domestic development continues.

Serdyukov confirmed that two new factories for producing the S-400 system will be built.  They are designed, and, he hopes, will begin production by 2015.

On tanks, the Defense Minister says they’ve taken the position that they can modernize T-72s to the level of a T-90 or better for 38 million rubles.  He believes it’s cost effective.

On the AK-74, Serdyukov claims they aren’t rejecting it, but they have depots overflowing with 17 million automatic rifles.  He says they’ll be used or modernized, some will be sold, and others transferred to other power ministries.

Serdyukov believes the draft military pay law now in the Duma will raise pensions by 50 or 60 percent.  Active military pay will be as advertised:  a lieutenant is supposed to get 50,000 or more rubles a month.  Contract enlisted will start at 25,000 or more depending on their duties.

Serdyukov hopes the problem of housing for retired servicemen will be concluded in 2013.  Then he can focus on service housing for contractees.  He proposes paying contractees to rent apartments while the Defense Ministry acquires or builds service housing.  “Apartment money” is a possibility but it has to be thought out.

Phantom Apartments

Yesterday NTV aired an expose which helps explain how the Defense Ministry claims it  built 45,600 apartments for officers in a single year.

It’s a bit surprising that a national channel aired this piece.  It depicts quite a mess in military housing, although it doesn’t venture to say how widespread this problem might be.  Recall that the military prosecutor was investigating a case of 8 unfinished buildings in Chekhov back in January. 

It’s unclear how such messes could be cleaned up–how unfinished apartments could be completed, who would do it, and, most importantly, who would pay.  Previous reports made clear the turmoil in the Defense Ministry’s Housing and Construction Service when civilian Grigoriy Naginskiy replaced General-Colonel Filippov at the beginning of 2010.

NTV also hints at pervasive corruption in the military housing program, but doesn’t address this directly. 

Brewing military housing scandals could lead not just to questions about poor management in Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry, but also about Prime Minister Putin’s (and President Medvedev’s) ability to delivery on oft-repeated promises to servicemen.

The video shows poor quality work on an apartment building in a way text alone could never describe it.  The looks and expressions of the jilted officers would similarly be difficult to capture in words.

NTV says officers of the Ufa garrison are thinking not about the upcoming 9 May Victory Day holiday, but about resolution of their everyday problems.  Because of bureaucrats, they and their families could end up out in the street.  They were allocated apartments in a new building where they can’t live.  The multi-story building is incomplete, and several parts of it haven’t even been started.

But according to the documents everything is in order.  There are even acts of acceptance for the nonexistent apartments.  The chief of every organization involved in the project hurried to put check marks on reports about the completion of this state construction order.  For this reason, it will be hard to determine exactly who’s to blame.

The camera turns to one Lieutenant Colonel Valeyev, effectively out of the service for 7 years, but unable to retire (he hasn’t received permanent housing).  He had to surrender his service apartment, and lives in the kitchen of an officer’s dormitory while his daughter lives in his room.  Valeyev concludes simply, “It’s shameful to live in such a situation.”

The construction contract for 350 apartments on the outskirts of Ufa was signed a year ago, and the work was to be finished in just three months, understood to be unrealistic and impossible from the very beginning.  The builders didn’t finish for understandable reasons, but the acts of delivery-acceptance were signed on time.  It turns out this housing existed on paper, but not in reality.

They managed to build only one-third of the apartments promised, and even those remain incomplete after six months.  Nevertheless, the chief of the Ufa KECh (housing management unit or КЭЧ), who distributes housing to servicemen, signed for ceramic tile, linoleum, and wallpaper back in October (so where did these materials end up?).

Asked why the acceptance was signed if the apartments weren’t ready, the KECh chief says only, “It was signed, so to speak, in advance.”

Meanwhile, the other two apartment buildings are just holes in the ground, as shown in the video.  These unbuilt apartments have been distributed already, so 100 military families have housing on paper.

Ufa garrison officers can’t go back to their old service apartments that have been given to others already.  It’s also possible their assigned permanent apartments, when and if completed, could be sold to civilian buyers now that the original contract’s been voided.  The officers will claim they have documents for the apartments, but the builder will tell them to take it up with those that gave them the papers (i.e. the KECh and the Defense Ministry).

The contractor complains that the Defense Ministry contract was lower than market price by one-fourth (well, why did they agree?).  And he claims he went ahead with his own money and now the apartments are more expensive (he seems to be preparing to justify selling them on the private market).

The officers don’t even have anyone with whom they can argue.  The previous KECh chief is under investigation on bribery charges.  And dismissed officers from distant Ural garrisons are being sent back to their units to ask their old commanders for some living space.

Serdyukov on New Boiler House for ‘Steppe’

New Boiler House in a SibVO Garrison

During his Far East trip last week, Defense Minister Serdyukov ordered a new boiler house before next winter for the ‘Steppe’ garrison that froze between 21 December and early January.  His press secretary said he was paying special attention to the living conditions of servicemen and their families, particularly questions of heat and electricity supply, during his DVO visit.  Of course, ‘Steppe’ isn’ t the only place where heating has been a serious problem.  The Defense Ministry has to deal with aging, neglected service housing infrastructure in many locations, and these ‘housekeeping’ issues are quite a headache.

As previously noted, heating is a problem in the Khabarovsk Kray garrison of Pereyaslavka.  The loss of its regiment to the ‘new profile’ has compounded its problem.  The kray’s authorities are getting complaints from residents about low temperatures in the garrison’s apartment buildings.  The local press notes that the military installed new boilers at Pereyaslavka, but can’t or won’t pay a civilian service company to operate and maintain them.  Local officials want to take over heating for the former garrison, but need a formal agreement that spells out the respective responsibilities of the DVO, the kray, and the rayon.  Recall from an earlier post that the locals seem fairly eager to take control of the military town.

Another tale of heating problems came this fall from Samara where retired officers have waited since 2007 to occupy completed apartment buildings, but the Defense Ministry, Samara KECh, the builders, and city authorities have not paid for and arranged a connection to the nearest boiler house and heating network.  See Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye’s coverage.

A military pensioner’s family in Troitsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast has appealed publicly to President Medvedev for help with its housing and heating problems, according to Lenta.ua.  Since 2002, the retired military man has tried to get a GZhS, but meanwhile lives in a cold apartment in the Troitsk military town.  The temperature indoors is reported between 54 and 57 F, and as low as 43 F in some years.  However, the military town’s housing commission, including a deputy unit commander, maintains there are no heating problems.  More than twenty other retired servicemen are similarly awaiting GZhS here.

The PUrVO KEU [apartment management directorate] indicates that responsibility for energy supply in Troitsk has gone over to a civilian firm, and that any heating problems have been corrected.  Not so, according to the pensioner’s family.  The Chelyabinsk garrison prosecutor hasn’t been any help, even though, in 2007, it declared the boiler house’s equipment  obsolete and worn out as the result of many years of use.

In a more positive vein, in June, the Defense Ministry and Voronezh Oblast announced they would construct a new modular gas boiler to supply heat and hot water for 11 apartment blocks and more than 700 families in the military town of Buturlinovsk.  The project was jointly financed, and reportedly being completed in November, but was also caught up in the issue of whether the military town and utilities would transfer to civilian municipal control.  The Defense Ministry and Voronezh are dickering over a lot of issues and property since the oblast’s military presence, especially VVS, is growing under the ‘new profile.’

In the end, the promise of a new boiler house this year to a garrison that already froze last year won’t be enough to fix the major infrastructure problem that is Russia’s service housing stock.

Television Covers Plight of Former Garrison at Pereyaslavka-2

In recent days, TV Tsentr and REN TV have covered the situation of  civilians and military pensioners left in Pereyaslavka-2 when its unit relocated under Defense Minister Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms.  Pereyaslavka-2 is a military ‘monotown’ or garrison town that owed its existence to its unit.

Pereyaslavka-2 is located in Khabarovsk Kray, and its unit belonged to the Air Forces and Air Defense Army (AVVSPVO) in the Far East Military District.  Pilots and technicians went to their new base, but 400 civilian workers were dismissed.  When the unit left Pereyaslavka-2, 120 former military families were ordered to leave service apartments they long occupied.  These people did not move with the units and are deemed to lack any connection to the Defense Ministry and must surrender Defense Ministry housing.  Some of these former servicemen have been waiting ten years for a state housing certificate or a permanent apartment.  Their apartments are to be turned over to local civilian housing authorities. 

The Defense Ministry says these civilians must take their problems to civilian authorities.  Khabarovsk would like to take over Pereyaslavka-2, but it has not received the proper documents to do so.  Khabarovsk officials say it’s up to the Defense Ministry and the federal government to transfer responsibility for the garrison’s housing to local control.  Khabarovsk can’t take Pereyaslavka-2’s housing on its balance sheet until the garrison’s status as a closed town is lifted, but only the RF government can do this.  Meanwhile, the current inhabitants fear the local housing authorities will redistribute their apartments.

In November, Tikhookeanskaya zvezda said 2,500 families of the officers and civilians were left behind in Pereyaslavka-2.  They wrote the regional government asking who would be responsible for the normal functioning of housing, municipal services, and heating this winter in place of the Defense Ministry.  Regional officials said they were working with the military and everything was under control.  The region would retrain dismissed officers and make available some of the apartments needed for the military.

Recall this fall that former Air Forces personnel and civilians in the western Russian garrison town of Shatalovo put on their own mini-Pikalevo to protest their unit’s relocation to Voronezh.  The unit’s move left 3,000 residents in a town given up by the Defense Ministry, but not yet taken over by Smolensk Oblast.  See Kommersant for good coverage of the events in Shatalovo.