It is human nature to look for the easiest way to solve problems. The collective mind of Ukrainian civil servants and officials works the same way. Since the best plots have long been privatized, leased or designated as a fund "for their people", officials and deputies often take the easiest way when choosing land for construction for families who have lost a roof over their heads. Non-liquid areas are allocated for development: territories with complex hydrogeological conditions, land on the outskirts, and even outside the city limits. The development of such lands — infrastructure, communications — will cost a round sum. And the question is already in the billions: the UN, in cooperation with the government of Ukraine, the World Bank and the European Commission, has calculated that the amount needed to restore Ukraine is currently $411 billion.
The Ministry of Community Development, Territories and Infrastructure has been appointed as the administrator of budget funds for reconstruction works, in particular for the construction of new housing. Proposals are made by military administrations. In April 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the State Policy Strategy on Internal Displacement for the period until 2025. The corresponding operational plan for 2023-2025 was also approved. The strategy was developed by the Ministry of Reintegration with the support of the Council of Europe. Experts from public and international organizations involved in the protection of the rights of internally displaced persons also participated in the development of the document.
Despite such a wide range of co-authors, the Strategy contains very little concrete information about future steps and priorities. It most resembles a letter of justification, in which, like the links of a closed circle, the reasons for formulating this very strategy are listed. For example: "Assessment of the real needs and capabilities of communities in providing access to housing is significantly complicated due to the lack of a systematic mechanism for such assessment and the scale of the problem. Local housing funds are limited or absent, the mechanism for attracting local investments needs improvement."
According to Iryna Vereshchuk, the purpose of the document in particular is to instill optimism in the displaced people: "The displaced people should feel that they are not alone. They should feel the shoulder of the state. The state should give them the impetus to build a new life." (Subjective remark: did I, the author of this article and an IDP, feel the shoulder of the state? Somehow not.)
In the operational plan for 2023-2025, which is attached to the Strategy, it is possible to find a few numbers. The Ministry of Reintegration, regional administrations and local self-government bodies plan to deal with the issue of phased resettlement of internally displaced persons from places of compact settlement as early as the II quarter of 2024. It is not entirely clear where exactly people will be resettled, as planning for the restoration of regions and territories affected by armed aggression against Ukraine has been postponed to the 2024th quarter of 2023, and the formation of housing funds for temporary residence - to the second half of XNUMX.
There is nothing about plans for capital construction either in the Strategy or in the operational plan, and the word "construction" itself does not appear in the documents even once
It is possible that new capital construction should be regulated by a separate law, but... Agree, it is a bit strange that it is not even mentioned in the hierarchically more general text of the state strategy for solving the problems of displaced persons.
Meanwhile, in order to provide housing for displaced people, at least 600 apartments will be needed - these are the calculations of Kyril Tymoshenko, who presented the Fast Recovery Plan back in the fall of 2022. The same Tymoshenko optimistically reported that the first 2000 apartments will be built in 5-6 months, and IDPs will be able to live in them until their hometowns are restored, after which the vacated housing will be handed over to the military and medics. But the Fast criterion did not work out. In fact, everywhere the process slowed down at the level of the documentation for land acquisition and projects.
Plans and acres
In the absence of generalized comprehensive information (which the authors of the State Strategy also complained about), it is necessary to put together a puzzle from fragmentary messages that randomly enter the news feed. The picture is rather motley and ambiguous.
У Poltava, according to the information published in the "Government Courier", 7 hectares on Lazurnia Street were allocated for the new construction of multi-apartment buildings for immigrants. This plot is located next to the fields, hopelessly cut off from the city by an industrial zone and a multi-kilometer development of private houses and cottages. Since the networks of the private sector are unsuitable for connecting high-rise buildings, a separate water supply, sewerage, and electrical networks will have to be laid to the residential complex. Only one and a half million hryvnias have been spent on the project of new communications, the cost of the works themselves is still unknown. The nearest bus stop is one kilometer away, the hospital is one and a half kilometers away.
The draft project worth over a million hryvnias, ordered by the Department of Construction, Urban Planning and Architecture of the Poltava Regional State Administration LLC "Ukrbildinvest", does not add optimism. Apart from 8 six-story buildings surrounded by parking and fields, there is no infrastructure on the site, and it is not even planned. There are no commercial or public spaces in the basement floors of the buildings. The designers explained that this was the request of the customer — the Poltava Regional Military Administration.
Apart from 8 six-story buildings surrounded by parking and fields, there is no infrastructure on the site, and it is not even planned. There are no commercial or public spaces in the basement floors of the buildings
This is how the head of the Poltava Regional Military Administration, Dmytro Lunin, commented on this situation to journalists: "For the comfort of living, perhaps those who are involved in the city's general plan will clarify the plan of this area, take all measures so that the necessary infrastructure - shops and other businesses - will appear there. I am sure that where there are people, business will also appear. There will be a certain flow of residents, something will be built there."
The construction of concrete boxes and parking will cost the state 2,4 billion hryvnias. The expectation that someone will someday and somehow turn the concrete jungle into a place of comfortable living can hardly be called "modern standards" of urban planning, which ministers and the president talk about from every podium. However, there are also peculiar ideas about inclusiveness, integration and accessibility in Poltava OVA. For example, a modular town for more than 500 people is being built here on the territory of the regional psychiatric hospital, which is located among wastelands on the northern outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, the tone of publications in the local press is clearly haughty.
У Kropyvnytskyi back in April 2022, plots with a total area of 180 hectares were selected for the construction of 20 five-story buildings for IDPs. One of the largest plots is about 40 hectares on Generala Zhadov Street. This place on the outskirts of the city is known for its unfinished buildings from the 90s. Bankrupt companies did not complete their business due to the lack of buying demand - the area is quite depressed. The possibility of reconstruction of some of the unfinished buildings was not discussed. More than a year has passed, but for some reason the topic of new construction has completely disappeared from the information space. One of the latest reports is that the deputies decided the issue of land acquisition at the session of the city council.
What can be said about capital construction, if even the question of temporary construction is not yet closed. IN Chernivtsi in April, a modular town for 224 IDPs, built with funds received from the EU and the German government, was inaugurated. The plot of 6 hectares is located in the Sadhora district on Ilaria Karbulytskyi Street. Formally a city, actually a suburb. But the kindergarten and school are nearby. Two more towns are located in Chornoguzy and Banylov, villages in the depths of the region. The area is picturesque and sparsely populated. For recreation - great, for active life and work - hardly.
As reported by the local mass media with reference to the Department of Social and Economic Development of the Chernivtsi City Council, seven apartment buildings are planned to be built on Bohdan Lepky Street at the expense of the EU. This location is also on the outskirts of the city.
Khmelnytskyi plans to build housing for IDPs and veterans on a neighborhood scale. The city received a grant from the Northern Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFKO) for 8,4 million euros. The 10-hectare plot found by the city for the implementation of the project is located between the Grechany microdistrict and the Oleshin village. Also a kind of virgin lands on the banks of the Southern Bug. The city will have to lay new communications and build a boiler house.
In general, the expressions "found a site", "were looking for an opportunity to allocate", which are often used by officials, sound very strange for cities with low building density and large areas. The same Chernivtsi, where there was no free space close to the center even for modular towns, ranks 9th in Ukraine in terms of area — 153 square kilometers. That is, the city itself is twice the size of Vinnytsia, and the population is 100 less. But for some reason in Vinnytsia they find an opportunity to build social housing in the center.
Nazar Kovalenko about the Vinnytsia experience
Recently, the team of the "Institute of Urban Development" together with the Vinnytsia communal enterprise "Agency of Spatial Development" held a public event where they announced the results of a study that showed that point construction of social capital housing is justified and profitable precisely in residential areas that have already developed. For Vinnytsia, the most promising districts in terms of possible densification are Vyshenka and Zamostya.
Nazar Kovalenko, director of the Institute of Urban Development, told PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA about the conducted research and the prepared "Crisis Plan for Housing Construction".
Nazar Kovalenko: "The municipal housing construction program has been operating in Vinnytsia for 10 years. The city builds a house at its own expense and sells apartments at cost price to certain categories of the population — families with many children, veterans, IDPs, and public sector employees. Cooperation with banks has been established: the city gives the bank a loan repayment guarantee, and the bank provides loans on preferential terms to citizens who have received the right to buy out social square meters. On average, the cost of this housing is 10-30% cheaper than the market price (primary market).
Of course, cheap housing can be built only if it is located near the already existing infrastructure, otherwise millions are added to the estimate for the construction of communications and roads, as well as if the plot is in municipal ownership, that is, the land does not need to be bought.
At first, it was problematic to find similar plots, since the most attractive ones in the city center had already been privatized. Therefore, the first social houses were built on the outskirts. But the last two houses are already being built in established residential areas, where there is all the accompanying infrastructure, and the value of this affordable housing is not only literal, but also consists in the fact that the socially disadvantaged categories have equal opportunities with better-off people who can independently buy for themselves an apartment When choosing a location, city planners focus on places where the transport infrastructure is formed: there is a public transport stop nearby, there is a school, kindergarten, dispensary or hospital, commerce is formed.
Cheap housing can be built only if it is located near the already existing infrastructure, otherwise millions are added to the estimate for the construction of communications and roads
Vinnytsia does not yet have the experience of attracting donor money or funds from external sources specifically for new construction. There was experience in renovating dormitories for IDPs with grants from international partners – GIZ, ACTED, but that is another story.
From the experience of studying the policies of those international organizations that are preparing to invest in housing, I can say that for them the issue of social justice is very important. Especially in the context of housing construction for socially vulnerable categories — displaced people who have lost everything and may not even have a job now. It is unacceptable for them to build housing on the outskirts, far from everyone, forming a social ghetto. This is the most important criterion for our international partners. People should have maximum opportunities for integration. And on par with those who were able to buy an apartment in a good area, they should also be able to live there. So that there is no segregation and division into areas for the poor and the rich.
In our Crisis Plan, we created a model of affordable housing based on several key principles that came from the Vinnytsia leadership.
First, social or affordable housing cannot be isolated and segregated. From the point of view of urban development, it is not interesting and wrong for Vinnytsia to build a separate house for IDPs and a separate house for state employees. It should be a mix of social categories, a mix of residents of Vinnytsia and visitors, so that people integrate faster.
Secondly, a series of new buildings should not be built in a compact manner - they should be scattered throughout the city in already formed areas. For example, one of the social houses was built in the most prestigious area - Podillia microdistrict. This is a new neighborhood for about 20 people, where commercial housing is aimed at the middle class and above. And a building with social apartments was built on the same plot. Especially to create communication between people with different income levels. We also include in this model the condition that affordable housing must be integrated into city life at all levels — financial, social, spatial."
Hanna Bondar about the impossibility of influencing the situation from above
People's deputy Hanna Bondar, the author of a number of draft laws and regulations that directly relate to city planning and city policy, believes that the state will not be able to influence city officials by forcing them to choose the best available locations for immigrants.
Anna Bondar: "We should not be under illusions about the prospects, it seems to me that the real prospect is not the most pleasant for us. I do not see the possibility of regulating the issue of allocation of land plots for the construction of housing for IDPs from above - this is the authority of local authorities. Our biggest problem, now painfully exposed, is the lack of public housing in general. There is no bank of apartments that can be distributed among people affected by Russian aggression. The compensation procedure is complicated and lengthy — people turn to the state, and the state will present an account to the Russian Federation at some point in the future. And housing is needed now.
Each city must build these apartments "for itself" - in those places and in the amount that the city needs in terms of development. For this, the city government should conduct an active dialogue with representatives of private business, land owners and developers.
In Germany, a few years ago, I witnessed how the municipality solves the issue of social housing: they held meetings with developers and discussed with them the prices for future square meters. In our conditions, such a frank, honest and public conversation is simply not possible yet. And there it is normal to sit down at the negotiation table, discuss commercial issues and negotiate with the developer who leased the land. On the one hand, we do not have housing for the affected people, and on the other hand, we have thousands of empty or abandoned apartments, because in general the demography is negative. And it is very difficult to predict, because we do not know how many people will return.
Each city must build these apartments "for itself" - in those places and in the amount that the city needs in terms of development
Ukraine is not the first country to face population outflow. In Leipzig, after the reunification of Germany, entire neighborhoods that were built on the outskirts in the post-war years in order to resettle people there were emptied. But in the 90s, many residents of the center moved to the cities of West Germany, and residents from the outskirts moved to their place in the center. And the neighborhoods on the outskirts turned into semi-empty and dangerous areas. For example, Georg-Schwarz-Straße (Georg-Schwarz-Straße) became half-empty in the late 90s. But the municipality developed a renovation program and created a mechanism for the revival of such areas: they recruited a team of urban planners who worked on a replanning and redesign project. First of all, it was necessary to find the owners of empty apartments. They even hired detectives for this. The owners were offered options: for example, whether they agree to provide their apartments for student or social housing. Even if the owners received a token payment, it was still profitable, because the homeless shelter quickly fell into disrepair.
They also asked the owners why they left, what exactly did not suit them, what was missing for a comfortable life. For example, residents of a number of buildings were disturbed by the tram. After the modernization of the line, it became almost silent. The area was landscaped, trees were planted in the parking lot. All these measures yielded a result: when I came to Leipzig in 2014, 70% of the apartments on Georg Schwartz Street were empty, and already in 2018, this figure had decreased to 30%. But I would like us not to cement mistakes that will have to be heroically overcome in the future.
Even last year, the Verkhovna Rada adopted Law 2389-IX, which defines the main legal, economic, social, ecological, humanitarian and organizational principles of state regional policy as a component of Ukraine's internal policy, establishes the specifics of the restoration of regions and territories affected by armed aggression against Ukraine. But the whole strategy should be based on local programs of comprehensive restoration of territories for each city and OTG. In fact, such strategies were developed by units.
It is obvious that for cities on the front line this is an irrelevant task and physically impossible. For example, only 6 employees of the city council remained in Sviatohirska hromada. In general, many urban planners, architects, urban planning specialists left for Europe. Perhaps we should form field teams of designers who can go to different cities of Ukraine and develop development programs for them, so that later we can gather a vision from them for each individual region and the country in general."
Ivan Verbytskyi on social inclusion
Ivan Verbytskyi, the director of the Cedos think tank, believes that the government should not formulate any universal solution in order to bring it down from above to the level of cities, since each settlement has completely individual conditions and context.
Ivan Verbytskyi: "Yes, we have problems with spatial planning. In large cities, the master plans were updated inexplicably when, and if they were updated, they do not correspond too much to modern approaches to urban planning. Still, I would refrain from giving any single recommendations for everyone. However, there are several conditions that must be paid attention to when choosing a location for construction, both permanent and temporary.
First: so that these places are not excluded from the general city life, that is, they cannot be located somewhere on the outskirts, where public transport does not go, where there are no schools, kindergartens, cultural spaces. Even if we are talking about suburban locations, it is important that they are not cut off from life. Because that would mean excluding the people who live there. IDPs have already experienced a lot of hardship, and their integration and adaptation is all the more important.
We have seen examples of modular towns that were created after 2014, and in some cases, for example in Zaporizhzhia, they were located on the outskirts. It is very important not to repeat such mistakes.
The next condition I would pay attention to is social inclusion. It will be a mistake to build a separate house for IDPs and a separate house for another category. It is clear that since there is a huge need to create a lot of new housing at once, there may even be separate quarters for the displaced. It will not be easy to mix. But in the future, an opportunity for integration, adaptation, and interaction should be created. If people are settled in separate compact groups, then, obviously, integration will not take place.
Social inclusion is important. It will be a mistake to build a separate house for IDPs and a separate house for another category
I do not completely agree with the fact that there is a lack of specialists. If you have a desire, you can find them. Of course, at some point, if you take and involve all specialists in the work, perhaps this issue of personnel shortage will appear. But now I know that there are many free people. It is possible to attract specialists from abroad. But there are enough specialists in Ukraine who can do the job no worse than foreigners. There is a great example in Lviv, where even last year a competition was held for municipal housing for patients who will undergo rehabilitation at the Nezlamna center. This competition was won by Oleg Drozdov's office Drozdov & Partners, but other projects submitted to the competition by Ukrainian architects were also very worthy."
Municipal housing on Mikolajchuk Street in Lviv will be built with EU funds. The grant of 19,5 million euros, intended for the implementation of this project, is the largest amount allocated by European donors for the construction of social housing for Ukrainians affected by the war.
The construction site is located on the northern border of the city. And one could also cite this example as "construction on the outskirts." However, from the beginning this residential complex was planned as part of the National Rehabilitation Center "Unbroken". Accordingly, physical proximity to him is fundamentally important, especially when it comes to people with limited mobility.
The designers tried to reduce the factor of distance from city activities by providing a social and professional adaptation center as well as a children's center as part of the complex. The residential microdistrict of Zboyshch belongs to the territories of priority development from the point of view of the city authorities. Between the western and eastern parts of this neighborhood there is a park, a secondary school and a preschool. The territory development project envisages the continuation of the tram line from St. A. Lincoln to new houses. The Lviv City Hall also promises to create an ideal cycling infrastructure in the neighborhood. If these plans are implemented, the Zboyshcha district will become a full-fledged part of the city-wide organism.
Ivan Verbytskyi: "There are green areas nearby, and it's also good for rehabilitation. Building a tram line is a good idea for the city in general. It is always necessary to evaluate the situation in the complex. If the plot is far from the center, but there is a good transport connection, then everything is OK. It is important that this transport connection be and be now, and not in 30 years."
Anna Kyrii on why cities choose the easy way to solve the problem of land allocation
Anna Kyriy, deputy head of the Architectural Chamber of NSAU, is sure that free locations for capital construction can be found even in city centers if desired, and explains why the allocation of plots is associated with difficulties that local officials are not ready and do not want to overcome.
Anna Kyrii: "The number one problem is the very low quality of urban planning documentation. We can mention the lack of an up-to-date general plan for Kyiv, but I am sure that this situation exists in principle in most cities of Ukraine. If there were relevant general plans, development strategies, detailed plans of territories, and all of them were prepared in advance, then now it would be possible to simply implement them in a forced mode. And since all our documentation was prepared at the request of the developer or to serve business interests, and not at the request of the city for its development, these detailed plans of the territories are primarily focused on business issues, for example, the construction of commercial housing.
But the problems we are currently facing — the lack of affordable housing and social infrastructure — are not reflected in this documentation in principle. This is a primary and global problem. How to get cities to develop plans, I honestly just don't know. There must be some pressure from the community, a public idea, a united advocacy of architects. Well, there must be the same political will of the local self-government bodies to somehow move it.
The second problem is unresolved property and legal issues. Our cities are built mainly according to modernist principles, and it would be good to implement strategies to densify residential areas and blocks of modernist cities. There are a lot of such concepts and European studies, but they are not implemented. First of all, due to property and legal issues related to land plots. They already belong to someone, the land acquisition process is complicated. And there is no understanding of how, in principle, to work with the urban fabric, how to redistribute these territories. It is necessary to deal with densification, and this is what all reputable urbanists who work with modernist buildings say. Work with the density of the city, in particular in the center. But these are complex projects.
Our cities are built mainly according to modernist principles, and it would be good to implement strategies to densify residential areas and neighborhoods
Ukrainians do not like complex projects — and this is the third important point. Aversion to difficult decisions and a desire to follow the path of least resistance. Take a free plot, build quickly, hand over quickly. Speed is our priority. And complex decisions cannot be made quickly, you have to work on them, decide how exactly to add a new building to an already existing building, how to work in a tight spot of development.
Immigrants should not live in isolation, not on the outskirts, but in a place where there is infrastructure, a cultural component, sights, parks, and museums. To immerse themselves in the context of the new place they moved to. And for this context to be hospitable, attractive. Of course, there must be pressure from society, it is necessary to articulate the problem and solve it at the level of cities. Increasing cities is often harmful: the larger the territory, the more expensive the service. The simple decisions we make now can have negative consequences in the future. It's like energy efficiency — first you have to pay more in order to save later. But... it seems we are not ready.
There is also a purely human factor: interested people benefit from the speed and simplicity of decisions. The developer is interested in getting land and building as quickly as possible, people are also interested in getting square meters as quickly as possible. Problems that will arise in the future - who wants to think about them today. They will be decided on a case-by-case basis."
Over-concern for people and cities - how we lack it!
The history of the construction of state social housing has been going on for a century and a half. A century and a half of bold, brilliant experiments and resounding failures like the ruthlessly demolished Pruitt-Igoe and Robert Taylor Homes complexes.
And even those projects that today belong to the masterpieces, such as the iconic Alexandra Road estate complex in London, were called "crime" in the 70s of the XNUMXth century.
The author of this legendary project, Neve Brown, almost lost his license, and his reputation as a government-commissioned architect was destroyed. He miraculously avoided prison, because he missed all the construction deadlines and exceeded the estimate by 4 times!
The plot allocated for the construction of social housing on the site of the chaotic old buildings of the Camden district destroyed by bombing was extremely unfortunate: it was located along a railway line. According to our DBN — in the sanitary and protective zone. Brown proposed a technical solution: the foundations of the houses rest on rubber pads, and the eight-story block along the paths, thanks to its zigzag shape, works as a noise barrier. The complex includes a kindergarten, a youth club, a public park, and playgrounds. The apartments have their own mini gardens on the terraces.
The architectural and engineering complexity of the project caused cost overruns. According to British Labor at the time, this was a very expensive over-care for social housing residents
But even if the architects are able to solve the problem of noise, lay public spaces in the project and maximize landscaping, the issue of transportation and communications remains within the competence of city officials. Will Ukrainian architects want to risk their reputation like Niva Brown, or will they refuse to design just because the local government allocated a frankly unsuccessful site for development?
To avoid the future degradation of social housing, urban planners suggest first choosing the location carefully, pledging large sums of upfront financing, investing in building materials and maintenance, as well as avoiding segregation and forming socially diverse communities. Look for solutions that will solve several problems at once and increase the number of beneficiaries. In practice, it is not so difficult, so it is even surprising that only a few mayors see the need to build municipal housing not as a problem, but as an opportunity for development in conditions of global aid and material support. In Zhytomyr, for example, they found a plot of land for multi-apartment buildings next to the Khmelnyky residential neighborhood and included in the grant project the construction of a school where the children of old residents and new settlers will study. We have already talked about Vinnytsia and Lviv.
Among politicians who have realized that the Fast Recovery Plan is actually being implemented very slowly, the idea that if you want to build low-quality social housing on the outskirts, you can not build it at all, but distribute compensation to the affected families so that they can dispose of it, is beginning to gain popularity them at their own discretion and remove the issue from the agenda. On the one hand, it sounds reasonable. On the other hand, it will not solve the problem of the lack of social housing funds and social infrastructure, which even the most prosperous cities need in peacetime.
The material was created with the participation of CFI, Agence française de développement médias, within the framework of the Hub Bucharest / Residency Yak Vdoma project.