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building khrushchevky kiev

Demolition Or Renovation For Kyiv’s Khrushchevky? What To Do With Soviet-Era Apartments?

Kyiv Authorities are developing a plan for the reconstruction of old housing stock, and the first in line will be the “Khruschevky.” The plan includes the reconstruction of approximately 12,322,000 square meters of residential housing space and is expected to be completed by 2040.

What is a Khrushchevka?

Khrushchevka is the unofficial name for a type of low-cost, concrete-paneled or brick 3-5story apartment building developed in the Soviet Union during the early 1960s when its namesake Nikita Khrushchev directed the Soviet government to build a massive amount of housing in a short period of time. The intent was to quickly house hundreds of thousands of people who at that time were still living in communal flats and barracks. 

Erected quickly and designed with an exploitation period of maximum 60 years, the Khrushchevky’s service life is coming to an end, and this represents one of the biggest headaches for city hall. The plan was first mentioned in 2019, and still, and yet to this day no steps have been taken towards implementation.

The Department of Urban Planning and Architecture of the Kyiv City State Administration and the public utility company Institute of the General Plan of Kyiv has put together a project that involves the total demolition of the dilapidated structures. The demolition option involves constructing houses of a larger area and larger floors on the same land where the Khrushchevsky are currently located, with the starting point being those in the Lesnoy area of Desnyanskiy district.

kyiv khrushchevkas kiev
Legal foundations of this project

Conditions for obtaining a new apartment by displaced owners are determined by Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine, “On Comprehensive Reconstruction of Outdated Housing Stock” where it is clearly stated that the resettlement of tenants will be subject to the prior provision of another apartment equal in size and number of rooms and in the same general location. In addition, the law provides for a coefficient of 1.5 for the reimbursement of the living space, i.e., an owner with an apartment of 50m2 should be reimbursed with an apartment of 75m2.

Obstacles to project implementation

The main problem is that the above-mentioned law was adopted in 2006 and stipulates that 100% of tenants in each building must agree with the plan. Real estate market analyst, Viktoriya Bereshchak, says that it will be tough to persuade 100% of the owners of apartments in Khrushchevky that this idea is feasible and will not leave them without any property at all. The government needs to make a full-scale information campaign involving not only government representatives but also independent development and real estate experts that will make the audit of the houses and explain the consequences of living in the outdated building in modern and simple language. It is also necessary to ensure that the resettlement plan is very safe for the current owners, with a transparent tender process for the investors who are expected to participate in the project.

There are efforts underway to reduce the percent of owners from whom the agreement is needed from 100% to 75%. However, because forced resettlement is fraught with moral and legal issues, this reduced percentage might only be used in cases where the authorities declare a building to be condemned on the basis of safety, and on this basis to move forward with demolition and resettlement without 100% agreement. But even this is not so simple, as to qualify for being condemned the building’s physical deterioration has to be from 81-100%.

Doubtless, if the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine leave the old norm of 100% residents agreement and until the single mechanism won’t be developed, the city council won’t remove administrative obstacles, and, importantly, won’t create the tool for protecting proprietors, the program of the comprehensive reconstruction of the old housing stock will be implemented very slowly or will freeze at all.

However, there is also a lot of obsolete housing in Europe. So what we can benefit from the European experience?

For example, Poland has focused their efforts on improving such buildings by adding better insulation and making drab buildings look more aesthetically pleasing, but in the UK, many panel apartment buildings were simply demolished. Germany had the most realistic position of the reconstruction of the five-story buildings. In 1990, Germany launched a state renovation program to make improvements to panel residential housing. Within the scope of this program, the Khrushchyovkas were renovated and modernized. Wherever possible, elevators were installed, and the buildings were lined with modern panels of different colors, re-planned, renovated, and foundations reinforced, which resulted in a radical transformation. The renovation program lasted for about 20 years and took place over several stages. They even used the construction rubbish from the demolished buildings to build roads, while they also used this opportunity to upgrade infrastructure networks and better organize public spaces. In East Germany, five-story Khrushchevkas were transformed into 3-4-story buildings, with large terraces and more attractive architecture.

It would be unfair not to mention the fact that some developers in Ukraine have already managed to begin with pilot projects, having enlisted the support of residents of the houses. However, not everything is working so smoothly as activists, city authorities, and bureaucracy from time to time slow down the process. 

So it’s up to everybody to decide whether you believe in the successful development of this project or not, but what is clear is that there is no time to postpone the decision about Khrushchevky. In the coming years, we will see which form the redevelopment will take, and in the end, perhaps Kyiv will set the example for other cities and countries to follow.

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