Between 10 and 13 April 2018, Housing Europe was invited to Yerevan by its Armenian member, ASBA, the National Social Housing Association of Armenia for a series of meetings and a conference on energy efficiency. The visit was of particular importance because it gave Housing Europe the opportunity to learn more about the problems and the needs of its Members in the EU Neighbourhood which can also allow us to deliver more targeted support to these countries in the framework of the Working Group in support of countries with housing systems in transition. Housing Europe Policy Officer, Edit Lakatos reports.
In the morning Ara Nazinyan, Executive Director of ASBA Foundation and Edit Lakatos, Policy officer of Housing Europe met with Armen H. Ghularyan, Deputy Chair of State Urban Development Committee at the Government of Armenia and his colleagues. The discussion aimed at learning from each other in terms of needs and issues to tackle and at potential cooperation regarding the Working Group on housing systems in transition.
The Deputy Chair and his colleagues explained the main issues in housing policy in Armenia which includes:
- fragmented regulation on the management of multi-apartment buildings which needs revision or completely new regulatory framework. A Government hearing on this issue was held next day after our meeting.
- lack of financing for energy efficient renovation and the need for alternative financing
- skills gap among housing managers and the need for capacity building
- needs for mentality change among tenants to become more responsible consumers)
- difficulties in digital development (The Government is considering the development of a database on housing status for multi-apartment buildings).
Edit Lakatos, Policy officer introduced the activities of Housing Europe and presented some European practices tackling those issues (Netherlands-digital solutions, France-mediation to prevent eviction, Belgium-training of tenants on everyday energy-saving practices) and also talked about some financing schemes targeting especially multi-apartment buildings such as the Jessica II scheme in Lithuania, the model of the Kredex Agency in Estonia, and the Better Energy Warmer Homes implemented in Ireland.
The second part of the meeting focused on exploring the ways in exchanging more with Housing Europe. ASBA Foundation, an Associate Member of Housing Europe, already exchanges practices and engages with experts in the frame of Housing Europe Committees. In addition, the new Working Group on housing systems in transition further provides with a learning and exchanging platform. The Ministry expressed its interest in joining the next meeting. That would give the Ministry colleagues the possibility to learn from hands-on examples and help them make better policy decisions.
In the afternoon, Edit Lakatos, Policy officer met the project team "EU for Civil Society” supported by the EU Delegation to Armenia. The meeting focused on innovative projects to raise public awareness about energy efficiency and partnerships in implementation (especially on co-financing). Edit mentioned 4 pre-selected projects of the Responsible Housing Awards of 2016 in the category of ‘Good governance and fair relations with stakeholders’:
- Big conversation by Shepherds Bush Housing Group, UK
- Various stakeholders in the conversation of former military barracks by Paris Habitat, France
- Dialogue in order to build strategic vision by Société Dauphinoise pour l’Habitat Echirolles, France
- Hemsworth Court-Dementia Friendly Community Hub by Helm Housing Association, UK
During the discussion, the project partners further discussed the needs in Armenia in order to set up similar projects. The identified aspects include responsible entities, co-financing, adequate skills and mentality change both from the tenants and the local authority’s side. that need to be detailed in a preliminary needs assessment.
A study visit to a housing development in Dilijan took place which is the first social affordable housing project implemented in Dilijan. The first phase - 16 apartments is already completed. The core beneficiaries of the project are middle-income Dilijani families and people moving to work and live in Dilijan. The average monthly income level of the family is considered AMD 200,000-250,000.
Based on a survey conducted by ASBA Foundation, currently, about 500 families are in need of housing in Dilijan community, including 200-220 families considered as potential beneficiaries for social affordable housing.
Within the scope of the project ASBA Foundation and Dilijan Municipality signed Partnership Agreement, according to which Diljan municipality provides land plot and unfinished building at preferential conditions, and supports with the development of necessary infrastructure.
The first conference of the project "EU for Civil Society: Energy Efficiency in Armenian Communities" took place where industry, academia, civil society and policymakers gathered. Among other speakers, Edit Lakatos, Policy Officer delivered a presentation on how Housing Europe promotes energy efficiency In Europe.
The project "EU for Civil Society“ is funded by the EU Delegation to Armenia (total budget is more than €370 000 with funding from EU Delegation of €335 000. 40 Mio AMD will be targeted to support small community initiatives only) with the aim of raising awareness on energy efficiency among the citizens of Armenia and implementing practical measures to improve energy utilization pattern, increase quality of life and reduce energy bills. The coordinator of the project is our Member, ASBA (the National Social Housing Association of Armenia) and project partners include Seven7, the energy efficiency centre (Czech Republic), EnergieU (the Netherlands) and IWO (Germany). The project is running until the end of 2019.
The conference was opened by the first deputy minister of territorial administration and development, Vache Terteryan who noted that energy efficiency issues are very important for the Armenian communities, especially given the many programs available in this area, which many citizens are not even aware of. "Through the implementation of the program, Armenian families will be able to cut their energy costs and channel the saved money into other expenditure," Terteryan said. He said if the program proves to be a success, it will be extended to other regions of the country as well.
At the conference, Ara Nazinyan, Director of ASBA highlighted that the program will embrace five regions of Armenia - Lori, Tavush, Gegharkunik, Kotayk and Ararat - and will be aimed at informing the population about energy efficiency and energy saving technologies. He specified that public organizations specially selected for participation in the program will present the residents of these regions the advantages of energy-saving equipment, as well as the programs implemented in the country to finance and support energy efficiency.
The conference and the project itself came in a timely manner as energy poverty is a growing problem in the country, especially in rural areas. A recent study done by UNECE suggests that at least 30% of the population in the country can be considered energy poor, i.e. they have to spend more than 50% of total family income on energy and heating. At the same time, local civic groups and organizations lack knowledge and resources to support communities in addressing energy poverty.
Reports of the National television and other channels on the conference (in Armenian):