Government wants to keep control over housing industry without stretching budget

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April 22, 2016 18:41

The state continues to search for additional resources to replenish the budget at the population’s expense. The budget deficit was partly patched up with revenues from the privatization of state-owned apartments. The deadline for state-owned apartments privatization was prolonged until 2016, so as not to aggravate citizens until after the presidential election. The government plans budgetary cuts on the state housing policy, but it is not willing to reduce its presence in this sphere.

Alexander Lukashenko endorsed a draft decree related to regulation of housing relations.

As of early 2013, 392,000 apartments (14% of the total housing stock) remain non-privatized in Belarus. The share of non-privatized housing (since Soviet era) is higher in the regions. About 182,000 people still possess ‘Housing’ cheques, which can be used to privatize the state-owned apartments they live in.

After the currency crisis in 2011, the government launched a housing policy revision slowly reducing its social orientation. The Government has gradually limited state soft loans and subsidies for housing construction. The Rental Housing Construction Programme was given priority, as well as transferring public housing stock into rental housing. The authorities plan to use proceeds from housing privatization to fill in the gap in budget revenues (circa BYR 17 trillion).

The Government initiative jeopardizes the disadvantaged – mostly retirees who predominate among state’s tenants. Many of them cannot afford to privatize (privatization costs vary between USD 4,000 and USD 35,000). Moreover, if housing and utility tariffs go up, they will be unable to pay for their premises. Most of these apartments will be transformed into social housing or rental housing without the right for privatization.

In addition, the conversion of public apartments into rental housing will increase tenants’ dependence on the state, which may bring political dividends.

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