Posted 13 августа 2021,, 10:08

Published 13 августа 2021,, 10:08

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Communal deadlock: reforming housing and communal services requires even more money

Communal deadlock: reforming housing and communal services requires even more money

13 августа 2021, 10:08
Sergei Stepashin, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Fund for Assistance to the Reform of Housing and Communal Services, said about the absolute deterioration of the communal infrastructure in the country. Water supply, heat supply, sewerage networks are 60-70% out of order for a long time.

The legacy from the USSR fell into decay, and a new one was not built. Novye Izvestia found out, why.

Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil

Russia inherited a huge housing and communal services from the Soviet Union. Housing and communal services occupy 30% of the country's fixed assets. In 2018, the total housing area was 3.7 billion square meters. m., 67% of which was equipped with sewerage, water supply, gas and heating. Housing and communal services include more than 4 million objects of engineering infrastructure: these are boiler houses, heating networks, power grids. More than 600 thousand kilometers of water supply and sewerage networks, half a million kilometers of power grids, 200 thousand kilometers of heating networks - the dimensions are impressive. Their condition is depressing.

Everyone has known for a long time that we have a bad situation with infrastructure in the regions, says Svetlana Razorotneva, executive director of Housing and Utilities Control:

- Instructions have been repeatedly given, including Medvedev. Five years ago, there was a 60+ project on communal infrastructure with more than 60% wear and tear. Everything that has happened in five years - five pilot regions have appeared, several projects have been done.

The decision on a new program to modernize utilities infrastructure was made even before the pandemic in 2019. The Ministry of Construction announced that almost 50 thousand km of heating networks and 328.1 thousand km of dilapidated water pipelines were to be replaced. Konstantin Krokhin treats these figures with suspicion - there is a lot of guile in statements about 60% - 70% wear and tear. Often money hungry people consider bookkeeping wear and tear. 2% of depreciation is pledged per year, and this figure is growing over the years.

- But in fact, no one knows what kind of wear and tear it is, because no one has surveyed these networks, buildings and structures. These are very convenient numbers in order to raise them when you need to demand urgent and often ineffective financing, and when you need to hide these numbers. The question arises: if the wear is so high, what happened this summer? This winter with these pipes that were already 60% worn out 30 years ago? What's going on with them? - asks the chairman of the Union of Housing Organizations of Moscow, member of the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Housing and Utilities Konstantin Krokhin.

Sergei Stepashin's new statements can be explained by the fact that the infrastructure program was created, but no funding was allocated. The money for it was taken from the Fund for Assistance to Housing and Utilities Reform, the supervisory board of which is headed by Stepashin. By the beginning of the year, these funds also ended. The government has decided to pay 150 billion rubles from the National Wealth Fund. As Stepashin's statement shows, things are still there.

Of course, it's nice to get at least something from the state sheep, but if we compare it with the needs of the industry, the underfunding of which is estimated at a trillion rubles, then a 7 times smaller amount is unlikely to be able to solve even current problems. Enough, perhaps, for demonstration projects.

- 150 billion is not such a large amount on a national scale. Enough for something. Imagine, the cost of one cleaning station can be as high as one billion. 150 billion is only 150 stations in the country. It's not that much. It will definitely not be enough for the whole country, - says Oleg Rubtsov, director of the Institute of Construction and Housing and Utilities of GASIS at the Higher School of Economics.

Housing and utilities expenses are financed from the budgets of municipalities. For these needs, not the richest budgets allocate up to 40% of their funds, and not because they have nothing to spend more money on, but because they are closest to the consumer.

The expenditures of regional budgets for housing and communal services are several times higher than the same item of expenditures of the federal budget. Last year, the regions spent 1.329 trillion rubles, while the federal center allocated less than 400 billion.

The government's contribution to the modernization of infrastructure, indeed, is not so great, but it was conceived for co-financing and attracting private investors. Another 500 billion rubles were promised by President Putin in the form of loans for infrastructure projects at low interest rates. Svetlana Razorotneva cites Volgograd as an example, where a regional fund was created to support infrastructure projects. He issues loans at 2% -3%. The authorities entered into concession agreements for treatment plants and water utilities, which were traditionally considered unprofitable, and the investor went. There are other undertakings, says Svetlana Razorotneva :

- VEB has now started issuing infrastructure bonds. Now, thanks to Deputy Prime Minister Khusnullin, a whole range of measures has been activated that will allow at least somehow to launch the process. Whether this is enough or not enough - time will tell. Everything will depend on whether the investor goes there. It is impossible to do this without a budget. But the tasks of the budget are not to shift all the pipes at their own expense, but to create the conditions when it will be profitable for the investor to come into this area.

There is a temptation to finance infrastructure renovation by raising tariffs, especially since they are still in confusion. In some ways they are overestimated, but in others they are greatly underestimated. Take water tariffs, for example. In Russia, paradoxically, a ton of tap water costs less than a bottle of water in a store. Because of this, says Svetlana Razvorotneva, a significant part of the water utilities is in a pre-bankrupt state, and people are drinking low-quality water. :

- On the other hand, we have companies that feed off tariffs and maintain football teams. I believe that it is necessary to change the approach to tariff regulation, to abandon the widespread annual increase in tariffs throughout the country, to give it all to the regional level, to make decisions for each enterprise separately after a thorough audit. Then let's level the situation.

Experts see a way to solve the problem in public-private partnerships. The key to the problem is not to pour money from the budget, but to create partnerships, says Oleg Rubtsov:

- To solve problems of a significant nature, an increase in tariffs will not be enough. We need budgetary funds. The population has a resource of solvency. But raising tariffs is a social and political issue. It is impossible to increase them indefinitely. The population does not live well anyway. Something can be regulated by tariffs, but globally the problem cannot be solved only by them.

- The implementation of any plans for both construction and modernization of housing and communal services will inevitably raise more global issues. The example of Moscow shows that infrastructure should be built where it pays off. Both new housing and communications arise where there is economic activity. Therefore, it makes no sense to consider the issue of housing and communal services development without territorial development plans. Territorial development means jobs, people. If this is not the case, housing and communal services need not be discussed, because housing and communal services are houses with a supply infrastructure , ”says Konstantin Krokhin.

If there are few houses, and those that have nothing to support, since pensioners live in them, of course, it is difficult to support them. Raise or not raise tariffs - pensioners will not pay. Judging by the way medical care is being phased out in small towns, the number of schools is decreasing, it can be concluded that the state is not interested in the distributed population.

- These settlements are dying, regardless of what we think about it. The population is simply shrinking, infrastructure facilities are shrinking and people are leaving. Young people are leaving. Old people cannot, and young people leave for big cities. In our millionaires, such as Omsk, there is a depopulation. From the Far East, people leave for Central Russia or abroad. Today this is happening because the state does not finance its part associated with the development of these territories, '' Krokhin believes.

Whether in Kemerovo or Irkutsk oblast, the problem is the same: people continue to live in barracks and pay 10 thousand for utilities, although the walls are full of holes and the pipes are rotten. No matter how much you invest in their repair, this money will never pay off. Konstantin Krokhin stands for decisive action:

- Than to modernize them, it is better to demolish them and take people out. Maybe people are not needed there, because there is no social infrastructure, and the state does not set the task of developing the territory. Today, it is beneficial for the state to have the population resettled in the agglomeration, to settle in the humankind. It is easier to provide social insurance, medical insurance, education, transport, and so on in humankind. I am not saying that this is good or right. I am talking about the fact that there is a process of urbanization of our life.

The state must decide for itself whether it needs small towns. On the one hand, they are of cultural and historical value. On the other hand, they account for the highest percentage of depopulation. This is not only a problem for Russia, but for the whole of Europe. The exception is Scandinavia, where the state subsidizes sparsely populated villages. And in Italy, in beautiful medieval towns, houses are sold for 1 euro, and no one buys them. In matters of population reduction, we, together with Europe, says Konstantin Krokhin, there is only one difference: they have an average income of 1,000 euros, while in Russia it is 200.

To prevent the infrastructure modernization program from turning into a banal cut, the authorities must assess the chances of each region in terms of territorial development, and not bury billions of people in the ground.