23 february 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting in Kaliningrad on housing for the military

Vladimir Putin

At a meeting in Kaliningrad on housing for the military

“What service personnel and their dependants really need is not just ‘bare’ residential space or some standard housing, built to Soviet models, with the quality of decoration leaving much to be desired, but modern, comfortable facilities. Which is why I insist that only high-tech materials and equipment should be used in housing construction and that modern energy-efficiency and security standards be introduced.”

Introductory remarks by Vladimir Putin:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our meeting is taking place on February 23, Defender of the Fatherland Day. I'd like to use the occasion to greet you all, with the best of wishes, and to express my gratitude, especially to WWII veterans and Russian military old-timers.

The focus of our discussions today will be housing for service personnel. Let me remind you in this regard that we've allocated as much as 170 billion roubles in the past three years for the purpose of providing war veterans with subsidised housing. This has enabled more than 145,000 WWII vets to improve their living conditions. As you know, we've lifted all application restrictions so that anyone eligible can come and get registered at his or her convenience. There are currently about 40,000 people on the waiting list, and we plan on solving their housing problems in short order. Ten billion roubles has been earmarked for this purpose in the 2011 budget.

We'll be talking today about the consolidation of social guarantees for officers and men, as well as for their dependents. This is crucial to the success of our efforts to refit the army and the navy and to introduce advanced troop management systems. Modern armed forces should be manned with skilled, highly qualified personnel, and those who serve should feel that their state supports and cares for them.

As you know, we've been effecting a military allowance reform since 2007, and we have anticipated a significant rise in military allowances and pensions beginning January 1, 2012. We will also continue our efforts to improving the quality of healthcare and enhance other safety nets for the military.

Housing is the most sensitive of these issues and a key priority, so we'll discuss it at length today.

Earlier in the day, we visited a new housing project for the military, which includes a compound of six apartment blocks designed to accommodate a total of 720 households.

Some 1,750 flats were already distributed among service personnel in the Kaliningrad Region in 2009 and 2010. But there's still a long way to go. An additional 2,749 flats need to be be constructed to cover the needs of Defence Ministry personnel based in the region. Contracts have been signed on1,024 apartments in 2011, and there are plans to sign contracts for another 965 flats later on, but we still lack an additional 760.

In the neighborhood that we visited earlier today, I was happy to see a public services infrastructure developing: a school is being constructed (or at least i've seen its foundation pit); one kindergarten is completed and another is already being built; and vital engineering and road infrastructure projects are in the works.

I'd like to call your attention to the fact that while talking with residents of the neighborhood, we found out that they've got a serious problem with the road infrastructure – there's only one route to the city center, and it's as narrow as a bottleneck (Mr Tsukanov, you and I saw it for ourselves, didn't we?). We should try to come up with a speedy solution so that local residents do not have to suffer such inconveniences.

I'd like to stress that residential areas for service personnel should come complete with all the necessary infrastructure so as to provide the new tenants with proper highways and accessible educational and medical institutions, as well as job opportunities. Conditions should also be created for them to go in for sports. That particular neighbourhood, for example, boasts a large recreational centre.

Let me emphasise once again: What the military and their dependents really need is not just 'bare' residential space or some standard housing unit built to Soviet standards and leaving much to be desired, but modern, comfortable homes. For that reason, I insist that only high-tech materials and equipment be used in housing construction and that modern energy-efficiency and security standards be introduced. Furthermore, the prices of construction and, consequently, those of completed residential spaces, should not be raised without reason.

A total 100,000 flats have been provided for Defence Ministry service personnel over the past two years. This is, indeed, a large-scale programme; we've had nothing on that scale before, have we?

Not even in the Soviet era, it seems. Mr Makarov, was there anything this ambitious in the Soviet times? I don't think there was; this task has never been approached so systemically and on such a wide scale.

Some 45,600 apartments were provided in 2009, and 52,900 more in 2010. Over 87 billion roubles was given for this purpose from the treasury coffers in 2009, along with 92.5 billion roubles the following year. But we need to keep going, and we will.

We are planning the purchase of an additional 77,000-odd apartments in 2011 – 2013 devoted to military personnel. These flats are meant to serve as permanent homes. Close to 150 billion roubles in federal budget allocations will be allocated for this purpose.

Which priority issues should these substantial funds help us address? One of the main priorities will be to offer housing for service personnel who need it before the end of 2013. Effectively, this means getting rid of the waiting list altogether.

Once all outstanding obligations are met, we'll be able to provide apartments for the military incrementally, as the need arises. And I hope that people will no longer have to spend years waiting for an apartment to be found.

The mortgage system is to be further developed, all the more so since it has already become a major home-buying tool for most young officers. As of today, more than 140,000 savings accounts have been opened. The total amount of money in them exceeds 43 billion roubles. Thanks to bank savings and mortgage loans, about 5,000 service personnel have already been able to buy their own housing, including 2,900 apartments in 2010. Efforts to improve savings and mortgage mechanisms for the military will be continued into 2012.

One other priority will be to attend to the needs of retired military personnel who are discharged without housing. Each and every one of them should be provided with decent housing by the year 2013. I'm asking top Defence Ministry officials to monitor progress in that area and make sure that there are no delays and that all related programmes are intelligible and transparent.

Along the same lines, we should try to solve the task of providing military personnel with temporary accommodations. Such lodgings are in short supply, and the demand for 99,000-odd flats remains unfulfilled. Given the acuteness of this issue, as well as of the problem of moving people out of dilapidated lodgings, some of which are beyond repair, we've put aside more than 45 billion roubles.

If we count other security agencies, including the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service, the total amount of allocations to be made in the next three years for personnel housing needs will add up to 60 – 60.3 billion roubles.

That funding will let us solve the problem of service personnel's accommodations before the end of 2012. Initially, we believed the issue could have been solved earlier. But as we went along, the actual array of problems related to permanent housing, including housing for war veterans, became evident to us, and we saw that the construction sector was overstretched already. Nonetheless, we expect to get the accommodation problem solved by the end of 2012.

I'd like the Defence Ministry to adjust the size and structure of their housing reserves according the volume of army and navy staffs in 2012 as well.

It's equally important to follow through on another priority task – one I've already mentioned a few times. It consists in providing residential space for service personnel who were discharged from the armed forces without housing. Instead, they were enrolled in municipal waiting lists. But such lists are very slow going, as you know. This injustice must be redressed. With this in view, we've reserved a separate section of our new housing federal target programme, earmarking more than 36 billion roubles for the needs of retired military personnel discharged without housing (there are 20,000 retirees eligible, all told). I'd like to emphasise once again that the government should meet all of its obligations to these people. This is to be resolved in 2012 as well.

Now we'll have a video conference to see how things are going at a few major construction sites of Russia's Defence Ministry. The Kaliningrad governor will then deliver a keynote address.

First, however let's have a look at Russia from coast to coast.

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Closing remarks by Vladimir Putin:

In conclusion, let me remind you once again that although a lot has been achieved already, there's still a long way to go. We need to provide service personnel with some 77,000 apartments before the end of this year. In addition, we'll have to offer flats to the 20,000 officers who were discharged from the army in the early or mid-1990s. That makes more than 90,000 flats in total. Or 97,000, to be precise. And we've got a large scale programme on military accommodations, which will run through 2012.

That's a huge amount of work! Brilliant!

So let's make concerted efforts and do what we've got to do without delay, ensuring quality housing, reasonable prices, and a modern level of technology.

As I said, we need to take a holistic approach to problem-solving in public services, engineering, and road infrastructure. We've what it takes: modern technology and efficient building firms, including regional ones. And then there's the financial support from the government. So it all comes down to effective management.

Judging from previous experience, the problem can be solved quite successfully. The important thing for us will be to prevent failures.

Thank you.