Belarus has made considerable progress in implementing sustainable housing and land management policies over the last decade, but targeted efforts will be required to address remaining challenges, according to a new UNECE report.
The Second UNECE Country Profile on Housing and Land Management for the Republic of Belarus, released today, assesses the country’s strong progress in providing high-quality and affordable housing, as well as in modernizing its land administration system and urban development policies. It also outlines a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to support the country’s efforts to overcome persisting challenges in areas such as addressing high energy consumption, enhancing coordination and local involvement in housing sector decision-making, and diversifying financing of housing construction and renovation.
Significant progress has been made over the last ten years
According to the findings of the Second Country Profile, prepared during 2018-2019, Belarus has made significant progress in response to recommendations made in the first UNECE Country Profile, prepared in 2008.
As one example of the country’s efforts, the state programme "Construction of housing for 2016-2020" aims to increase affordable and high-quality housing provision for the population. It is being achieved primarily through both budgetary and non-budgetary sources of financing and long-term lending to citizens for the purchase of housing. As preliminary results of the programme’s implementation, the number of households registered as needing improved housing decreased by 20% between 2010 and 2017.
The Country Profile finds that since 2008, Belarus has made significant advances in harmonising national legislation in the field of construction and architecture with the technical regulations of the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as international and European standards. The system of urban and territorial planning in Belarus is well developed, with general plans of cities and regions well designed and available on the Government website. Territorial plans are prepared within national laws and regulations and updated regularly. The Profile recognises a well-developed mechanism for expropriation of land for construction, parks and roads, and finds that fair compensation is given for the land as well as for loss of production in future years, both for agricultural and forest land.
On land administration, Belarus has made significant progress, implementing many recommendations of the 2008 Country Profile. These include improvements to policy frameworks, quality of registers and the state land cadastre. In addition, information supply on spatial and administrative data from different registers has been improved by making it available via internet portals.
But challenges remain
The Country Profile also identifies challenges. One of the most pressing problems is the housing sector’s high energy consumption. Residential buildings built before 1993, which comprise 60 per cent of the total housing stock, consume on average 230kWth/m2. Buildings built after 2009 according to modern standards of energy efficiency consume not more than 130kWh/m2, but these buildings only account around 15 per cent of properties. As a result, more than 50% of multi-apartment buildings require renovation to ensure earthquake resistance and energy-efficiency.
A particular challenge is that capital renovations, which are conducted by local authorities, do not include thermal modernization of residential buildings which is left on the shoulders of apartments owners who cannot always afford to finance the required measures. The Profile recommends that involving non-state developers – in particular, the private sector and not-for-profit organizations such as housing cooperatives – in multi-apartment housing management and in financing the repairs, could facilitate owner funding of energy-efficiency measures.
The Government has adopted the National Strategy on Developing Social Housing Stock, although for this to be a success still requires adopting additional regulations on social housing provision and the affordable rental sector. There is a need to develop a comprehensive strategy for the housing sector, paying special attention to instruments to promote greater efficiency and generate investments in the housing market.
While housing policies targeting low-income households have yielded results, the overall house price to income ratio increased from 10.8 in 2011 to 11.7 per cent in 2016 which, combined with the ongoing economic slowdown, has led the Government to tighten the eligibility criteria for state support for affordable housing provision. In response, the Country Profile recommends the Government to revise the current eligibility criteria for state support to ensure that the housing needs of vulnerable populations are met.
The mass privatization of the housing stock has led to high home ownership in Belarus, and the current housing policy is predominantly oriented towards supporting this. The proportion of rental housing is still low - only 5.8 per cent in 2017. Currently, state and municipal rental housing do not satisfy demand, which is only partially met by private housing stock owned by citizens. Since the lack of rental housing impedes labour mobility and decreases access to housing for the low-income population, the Government is recommended to develop additional affordable housing options, including rental housing.
The Country Profile also reiterates the recommendation of the 2008 review to promote involvement of homeowners and private sector organisations in housing management, which has so far been only partially implemented.
The Second Country Profile on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management of Belarus, which was launched on 3 October 2019 during the 80th session of the UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, was prepared by UNECE in cooperation with UN-Habitat and with the support of the Government of Belarus. The preparation of the Country Profile was financially supported by the Russian Federation. As a follow-up to the Country Profile study to support the Government in implementing policy recommendations, UNECE and UN-Habitat will develop a pilot project on design of green buildings in the city of Grodno.
The Country Profile is available at: http://www.unece.org/housing/countryprofiles.html
Note to editors
About UNECE Country Profiles on Housing and Land Management
UNECE Country Profiles on Housing and Land Management are “snapshots” of the housing, urban development, land administration and management issues within a country. They are major undertakings where in-depth research and discussion between partners form a large part of the work. The Country Profiles are made upon request of UNECE member States, coordinated by the UNECE Urban Development, Housing and Land Management Committee’s secretariat and drafted by independent international experts. End publications contain recommendations for improving policies and practices in housing, urban development, land administration and management. The UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management monitors and supports the implementation of Country Profile recommendations. The Profiles provide an analysis of a country's entire housing sector. Recent studies have helped with tackling issues including financing for housing affordability, energy efficiency measures in buildings, urban planning in cities and many more. Policy recommendations to governments also include an assessment of the needs for renovation within existing housing stock.
For more information on the Country Profiles, please visit: http://www.unece.org/housing/countryprofiles.html
The project “Strengthening national capacities for sustainable housing and urban development in countries with economies in transition,” financed by the ninth tranche of the UN Development Account, has supported the four pilot countries of Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, Serbia and Tajikistan in the formulation and implementation of relevant policies and the development of National Action Plans for Sustainable Housing and Urban Development.
For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/housing/unda.html