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How To Renovate Kyiv: Start By Replacing All Soviet-Era Slums

There's an old joke about the apartment complexes named after Khrushchev​.

Typical Khrushchyovkas
Typical Khrushchyovkas
Sergiy Fotіev*

KYIV — Bed bugs are dining at "Khrushchyovkas," a cramped and grim low-cost apartment building named after the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev.

It's just another achievement for the Soviet goal of eliminating all excess in design and construction. These three- to five-storied buildings were assembled quickly and cheaply: The only thing required was that the size of the staircase and the radius of rotation on the steps allows the transport of a coffin. All other space was designed to be as limited as possible.

Nikita Khrushchev personally tested the toilet in such an apartment and delivered a verdict: "If I can do it, everyone can!" In response, a joke circulated about Khrushchev's apartments: He managed to combine the toilet and bathroom, but couldn't figure out how to combine the floor with the ceiling ...

Since 1957, entire neighborhoods have been built cheaply and quickly in Kyiv, with the current housing stock of the Ukrainian capital at 15% Khrushchevkas. It is no longer news that these old, low-quality buildings require major renovation. According to the preliminary general plan, about 3,055 Khrushchevkas, housing 200,000 families, have to be demolished.

Khrushchyovka on the big alley in Kyiv — Photo: Marjan Blan

The task is challenging but also gives an opportunity to rethink the infrastructure and living spaces of the city, as has been done for decades in urban areas of the U.S., Japan, China, Hong Kong, Great Britain and even Russia. City authorities either buy out apartments at the market price or provide new housing. In European countries and Israel, it is common to repair and renew buildings, adding more space, changing communications, improve energy efficiency, and adding a modern design for facades. Sometimes such works can even be carried out without resettling the residents.

In terms of financing, mass renovations of buildings in Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been carried out in recent years with state support, along with programs for subsidies and benefits for individuals affected.

Of course, it is almost impossible to garner 100% support for renovations among residents of the old buildings. Authorities must thus come up with measures to somehow "push" people out. In the UK, a "demolition payment" is introduced to compensate residents of dilapidated buildings. In France, if residents insist on remaining, they will have to pay for the maintenance of the whole building.

The government must ensure security.

But the most straightforward and secure renovation algorithm is applied in Istanbul. People are notified of the dates in which they must leave their apartments. Property owners choose the developer themselves. Houses are built at the expense of developers who can sell vacant apartments in a new house. Construction is carried out for a year and a half, during which time the state pays rent to temporarily evicted people. A cash payment of $20,000 is also possible. At the end of construction, people move into new homes at the same address.

Khrushchyovka in Kyiv. — Photo: Marjan Blan

Construction in Istanbul is carried out according to the strictest regulations. Upon delivery of objects, all technical specifications are carefully checked. Particular attention is paid to the protection of the structure from seismic risks. Modern houses are sometimes equipped with swimming pools, excellent infrastructure, and other amenities.

In Moscow, residents of old Khrushchevkas are offered a renovated apartment in a new house in the same area. Moreover, the number of rooms can't be fewer than in the old apartment, while the total area is larger due to more spacious common areas (kitchen, hallway, corridor, bathroom, toilet). If a resident is not ready to move to an equivalent apartment, he can receive monetary compensation.

At every stage, the government must ensure security. And for Ukraine, this is the most vulnerable spot. People are afraid of legal paradoxes and complicated relationships between the mayor's office, developers and citizens. Housing scams of recent years also ruined the reputation of construction companies, and people are afraid to be left on the street.

A system is needed to decide how and where to relocate all of those living in obsolete Soviet blocks, and Ukrainians need strong legislation. And it should start with the passage of a bill heading into Parliament, called: the Comprehensive Reconstruction of Microdistricts of Obsolete Housing.


*Sergiy Fotiev is an entrepreneur and owner of the construction company in Ukraine.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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