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S.Ochirbat: It’s time for residents to become city residents

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The following is an interview with Head of the Ulaanbaatar City Planning Department of the National Research Institute which is responsible for construction, urbanization and investment issues, about housing issues in Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolian residents were given five housing loan options. Can you elaborate on this?

From my knowledge, since the 1990s, Mongolia has been fighting against Ulaanbaatar’s smoke through many different measures. The World Bank and the government have spent a large sum of money on combating air pollution. The most correct way to fight smoke is to provide apartments to the people. The provision of apartments was supported by the government in various ways which increased choices for the people.

If citizens have their own land, they can exchange them for an apartment after forming an agreement with housing investors. Infrastructure issues in ger districts will be resolved through land redevelopment. Most importantly, residents need to participate in the proper structural organization and relocate from the land for infrastructural development. We’ll add it to the planning, install piping networks and build roads. This is one form of housing. The government is issuing many options including paying 30 percent of a housing price in advance for deposit and applying for the eight percent annual rate housing loan. Many are not able to move into apartments because they can’t pay the 30 percent. For these people, another suggestion was offered which is to withdraw a portion of their income every month if they have fixed income and when they’ve paid the deposit, they can move in. Many countries throughout the world have similar standards.

Moreover, there are many rundown buildings in the city. We’re planning to rebuild and improve them by using modern technologies with the help of the private sector. Residents can move into whichever floor they want in local area. The City Housing Program is a comprehensive program offering these five options.

How is the work for facilitating these five options progressing?

Last year, the private sector built and commissioned apartments for 15 thousand families. Seeing from this year’s permit acquisitions, we’re forecasting that we’ll build apartments for around 20 thousand households. Redevelopment of ger district was the biggest work we’ve done last year. The Citizens’ Representatives Council developed the planning procedures, held discussions with investors, established contracts between residents and investors, and now they’re progressing with their work. According to the information from project implementing agencies, over 5,000 apartments are to be commissioned within this year.

Investors are carrying huge responsibilities as well as risks of the city as they are letting owners of lands stay in rental accommodations. Since they’re spending a lot of money on rented apartments, apartments should be built within their deadline and have residents moved in as soon as possible. We’re enabling future residents to double check on the construction work. We’ve never had this sort of supervision before. Simply, they’ll be doing both professional inspector and supervising engineer’s work. Previously, each supervising engineer used to monitor 80 buildings which was a very heavy workload. When we recruited 20 more engineers to lessen the workload, we were criticized for having a huge staff structure. This structure allows recovering of costs through the income that comes from evaluations. One person cannot possibly supervise 80 buildings in a month. If they visit two buildings a day, they’ll monitor only 60 buildings in a month. Is this workload really sustainable?

Within the framework of land redevelopment work, 168 household’s lands were organized, and piping networks were built along with roads and engineering networks. For example, 160 households recieved comfortable apartments in the 30th Khoroo of Songinokhairkhan District. Some five trillion MNT was spent on this from the Minister of Construction and Urban Development’s package. We allocated 2.2 billion MNT for taking care of heating issues. We issued the program to provide comfortable apartments to some 20 thousand households by 2018. We’re confident that we will be able to achieve this.

Road work in Bayankhoshuu seems to be slow. At what stage is ger district redesigning work at currently?

It’s a good thing that private sectors are doing the work. Whether it’s major or minor help, it’s very useful. The public now understands that there’ll be road work and infrastructure in certain areas along with city expansions.

I visited Bayankhoshuu, Khutul and reviewed its road work. Several service centers had extended closer to roads. They stretched beyond their designated land and onto public land. Our land acquisition team went around and charged either compensations or after-taxes from them. Although it’s said that development follows roads, residents do not fulfill their obligations. The Bayankhoshuu road is a very busy road. Currently, we’re spending a portion of the 390 million USD provided by the Asian Development Bank on that road to resolve all engineering and infrastructural issues. We should do whatever we can if we wish to live comfortably. We need to understand that we’re residents of a megacity of the world. What I’m trying to say is that the time has come for residents to become city residents.

There are issues of setting affordable prices for residents. How is this issue being resolved?

We’ve never set lower values to properties. This work is carried out through the agreement between implementers and residents. Implementing agencies are doing their best to progress the work. Interests of some thousand residents of the city are more valuable than one man’s interests. The people should understand this. If they wish to live happily and comfortably, they need to start everything from themselves. There’ll indeed be difficulties and obstructions in this standard. Even so, it shouldn’t be stopped. Without destroying over 180 thousand chimneys in ger districts, Mongolia will not be able to get rid of soil, water and air pollution. The last 20 years has proved this. Adjustments for commencing work are now being made.

At what stage is the Capital City Housing Corporation (CHC) issue at?

The program was approved. Whether it’s CHC or Ulaanbaatar Corporation, they’re both needed. Before establishing this corporation, a research was conducted on countries that housed their citizen. The corporation will first purchase and then sell. The sales will settle sales issues of business entities to be redesigned. This corporation is different from the State Housing Corporation. Within this month, CHC issues will be resolved.

The CHC proposal to move buyers into apartments after depositing money is attracting people. What will happen if the government changes?

Since residents are paying a certain percentage to the housing stock, they’ll supervise construction work and even if the government is changed, it’ll not affect this all. This is a resident cooperation work. This work will not progress if we offer 100 thousand MNT and demand people to move out of their lands. When we created resident-investor agreements, the work started to progress. Last year, the government gave support in ger district infrastructure and gave 85.7 billion MNT from the Development Bank financing. Now the engineering network work is almost finished. The city gave 40 billion MNT for redesigning ger districts and the work was commenced. Both the state and the government is now fulfilling one purpose which is to implement the provision of the constitutional law to protect the balance of resident’s comfortable lifestyle and environment. Politics isn’t involved in this. If this work is shifted for political purposes and stopped, it’ll become a crime against the people. When I was meeting with many specialists, I felt their 100 percent support.

The Rental Housing Program is being implemented in the city. Is this program a form of housing residents? How was this received by residents?

Last year, around 300 households were moved into rental apartments. This year, we’re planning to move 396 households. This work is organized with the city budget funds. Last year, we established a housing fund. A certain portion of the state budget was allocated to this. Plans for 2030 were approved last year by Parliament. In this general plan, it was specified that 1,000 households will be moved into rental apartments each year until 2016 and in the following years, after 2016, rental apartments for 2,000 households will be built each year. Depending on the residents’ capacity to purchase apartments, the number of leases is increasing but the prices are high as there’s inadequacy in housing supply. It’s necessary to continue this work and increase construction each year.

When we enquired renters about their comfort, they had no complaint. They used to pay 150 to 160 thousand MNT to stay in another person’s residence in ger area but now they pay 120 thousand MNT to stay in an apartment. They seemed very satisfied.

With a loan from the Asian Development Bank, the area around Bayankhoshuu and Selbe are to be developed into sub-centers. Can you elaborate on this?

Within the framework of implementing the general plan to develop Ulaanbaatar through 2020, eight sub-centers were specified to be developed in the city. This work is being implemented with a 320 million USD loan from the Asian Development Bank. For starters, the parliament supported the project to redevelop Bayankhoshuu and Selbe into sub-centers. This year, we’re aiming to begin planning and construction work. Our purpose is to establish eight sub-centers in Ulaanbaatar by 2030. The most important work is to install engineering networks. There’ll be some household related issues and some land acquisition work. The municipality is giving 96 million USD for this. Some 16.6 million USD was allocated from this year’s state budget. Bayankhoshuu Center has a 48 MW heat source with modern technology. A total of 162 hectares around Selbe and around 140 hectares of land around Bayankhoshuu were assigned for the sub-centers. In total, services will be provided straight to some 200 thousand people. To make this estimate, the Asian Development Bank provided technical support and the feasibility was determined in a short amount of time. For the first time, the Asian Development Bank opened a multi-tier credit to Mongolia.



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