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Governors and Federal Officials Assessed Outlook for Spatial Development in Far East

8 September 2022
Губернаторы и представители федеральных ведомств оценили перспективы пространственного развития Дальнего Востока

On 6 September, the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF 2022) hosted a panel discussion by the Governors’ Club entitled ‘Opening the Far East 2.0: Reimagining Spatial Development’. The event was organized by the Roscongress Foundation and the Expert Institute for Social Research (EISR). The PIK Group was the general partner of the event. Heads of Russian regions and representatives of federal agencies discussed social aspects of territorial development in the Far East and assessed the impact of housing construction on the quality of life.

The panellists were Nikita Stasishin, Deputy Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation; Grigory Kuranov, Deputy Plenipotentiary Envoy of the Russian President in the Far Eastern Federal District; Ivan Polandov, First Deputy General Director of PIK – Specialized Developer; as well as the new wave governors: Aisen Nikolayev, Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia); Alexander Osipov, Head of Transbaikal Territory; Alexey Tsydenov, Head of the Republic of Buryatia; and Rostislav Goldstein, Governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region.

The panel discussion was moderated by Daria Kislitsyna, Director of EISR’s Regional Programme Department. “Our country is implementing a spatial development strategy. Just like any practical tool, it is constantly being updated, including the rethinking of the role of the Far Eastern regions and their geopolitical significance. A transformation in the understanding of their importance is possible, and its cornerstone is social reality, i.e. how people feel and whether they want to live in these territories. In the discussion, we want to look at how social infrastructure and building infrastructure are combined in the prism of the regions, how it all affects people and is perceived by them,” the moderator set the vector for the discussion.

Aysen Nikolayev said that Yakutia had all the potential to increase the rate of housing construction and to create social and engineering infrastructure in residential quarters. The Head of the Republic said that the region had managed to significantly increase the rate of housing construction and was among Russian leaders in terms of construction growth. He also said that Yakutia was constantly working to create a comfortable urban environment, and that buildings were being transformed into modern socially oriented spaces. The Head of Yakutia paid particular attention to the need of developing infrastructure in the Far East as a priority. “How can we compete with the regions where many problems were solved a long time ago using a single methodology? We cannot. We need to have updated coefficients for the Far East, so that we can develop. The Far East today needs to develop faster than anyone else in order for the country as a whole to live better. Today, we are in a situation where this has become a reality. The West has shut down for a long time, for the rest of our lives for sure. Without the development of the Far East, there will be nothing to talk about. Once and for all, this turnaround must be formed, first and foremost a turnaround in thinking,”

Nikita Stasishin spoke about federal measures to support infrastructure development in the Far East. Such measures include the Stimulus programme, which finances the construction of engineering and transport infrastructure, as well as the Infrastructure Menu project. The latter one makes it possible to finance social infrastructure ahead of time. “There is a paradox in terms of housing construction in the Far East. The cost of square metre is high. On top of construction cost and sales price, there is the cost of investment. The latter one is precisely the thing that drives new-quality housing projects. Developers compete in project quality instead of price of square metre. Cost optimization is the task facing governors and federal developers entering the Far Eastern construction market,” stated Deputy Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation. He emphasized that there were a lot of interest to housing construction in FEFD, which can result in implementing new-quality housing projects as early as next year. “We will help, as we have been doing it. We have been paying attention to the development of the Far East over the past years,” summed up Mr. Stasishin.

Ivan Polandov agreed that government programmes have increased the interest of developers and businesses in Far East projects. “Price growth is a two-way street. It can be counterbalanced by an increase in supply. On the other hand, the price allows regulating the quality of the product. With the arrival of Moscow’s players and major developers, there is a unique opportunity to bring the experience of high-quality master planning, creating public spaces, which is successfully implemented in the metropolitan region, and spread it to the Far East,” believes the First Deputy CEO of PIK – Specialized Developer. He stressed that over the next few years, the quality of products in the Far Eastern regions will change for the better, and people will receive high-quality and comfortable housing.

Grigory Kuranov drew the discussion participants’ attention to the fact that the state should provide people with an opportunity to live comfortably, but it is important to understand who the recipients of comfortable housing are. The Deputy Plenipotentiary Envoy of the RF President in the Far Eastern Federal District is convinced that one of the key recipients of comfortable housing is young people. That is why, in the speaker’s opinion, it is necessary to determine what the state wants this social group to be. “We can build as many houses as we want and make the cost per square metre whatever we want. But housing construction is a task, while the goal is to maintain a successful and sovereign state. While carrying out the task, one should not forget the goal. It is important to think about how we educate those who will live in these houses,” concluded Mr. Kuranov.

New wave governors representing Far Eastern regions shared their experience in developing the housing construction system, spoke about existing government support measures in this area, and highlighted pressing issues in the industry.

As Alexey Tsydenov noted, the implementation of systemic measures as part of the Housing and Urban Environment national project and situational state support for the construction industry in the face of sanctions made it possible to prevent a standstill in housing construction in the Republic of Buryatia. At the same time, Tsydenov regards the lack of vacant land plots with engineering infrastructure as the main problem for the development of housing construction in the Republic. He also stressed that Buryatia has significantly improved the state of the urban development since 2017 thanks to the successful implementation of the project ‘Forming a Comfortable Urban Environment’. The Head of the Republic emphasized that government support for infrastructure development in the Far East should be balanced, and housing construction should be integrated. “Comprehensive development that lays the foundation for a vibrant city includes the environment, transport, aesthetics, and other parameters. It should make people’s lives rich and fulfilling. People in the Far East should not have a sense of a ‘postponed life’ or a feeling that they need to save money and run away somewhere. It is important to give people a perspective and an understanding that this is where one can and should live, fulfil, and develop. This can be achieved through a master plan tool. It is the task of the master plan to create a city where you want to live yourself and your children want to live and build their future. Then people will come to the Far East, and the locals will not want to leave,” explained Mr. Tsydenov.

Alexander Osipov shared the experience of housing construction in Transbaikal Territory. He explained that, due to the region’s new urban planning policy, the construction of residential quarters as part of integrated development started in 2020. The main area of spatial development is the construction of modern residential quarters with the organization of public spaces, designed to create a comfortable environment for the residents of the region. Osipov said that five sites that had found federal support were being launched in Transbaikal Territory with an integrated approach to housing construction. According to the Governor, this was made possible thanks to the Infrastructure Menu federal project and modern mechanisms for the development of the Far East (Far Eastern Quarter, and others). Mr. Osipov drew the discussion participants’ attention to the importance of implementing an integrated approach to housing construction, with all agencies working in sync to solve a common problem. “On the one hand, there is a number of programmes. We will be building 9 new schools – something that has not happened in a long time – and 18 kindergartens. But the principle these facilities are being built under is determined by the federal agencies according to their parameters and targets. But that is not the principle of integrated development. It would be good if, in the next phase, the region would synchronize its support measures with the federal authorities,” shared the Governor.

Rostislav Goldstein drew attention to the need to rethink the approach to spatial development in Far Eastern regions. “All of the programmes that the government is currently developing are designed to develop housing construction, and they are doing so successfully. However, there are regions, such as the EAD, that do not qualify for the programmes due to their averageness. But the Far East is not an average territory. If we are talking today about the rapid development of the Far East, then living conditions in the Far East should be comparable to those in the capital, Moscow and St. Petersburg,” stressed the Governor. He also said that when implementing infrastructure projects, the question of how to motivate people to stay in the Far Eastern regions cannot be ignored. “The attention that we have to the Far East today needs to be multiplied by a hundred,” concluded Mr. Goldstein.

The discussion showed that the key to the successful spatial development of the Far East in the new circumstances is a comprehensive approach that takes into account the social aspect and aims to ensure comfortable living conditions for people in the Far Eastern regions.