Rīga plans to insulate 3,000 buildings in nine years

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Rīga City Council coalition has committed to renovate and insulate 3,000 apartment buildings in Rīga over the next nine years, Latvian Radio reported April 24.

Finance institution Altum will invest €169 million in multi-apartment renovation projects by 2023. Of the currently nearly 1,000 projects submitted, only 20% or 194 projects are in Rīga.

Ieva Vērzemniece, head of the Altum Department of Energy Efficiency Programs, estimated that Rīga should have submitted at least 500 projects, taking into account the population and the number of apartment houses in the capital. With Altum funding, 19 renovation projects have been completed in Riga, while 170 are in different stages of preparation. Vērzemniece pointed out that the larger houses are, the more difficult for people to agree.

"More than half of the residents [of a building] must vote in favor of these projects. The bigger the house, the more difficult the process is to make that decision. The other thing, which we also see from other cities, is that positive examples are important: if one house is insulated, it also encourages neighbors to [agree]. And, of course, the activity of management also plays a very important role in this process," said the Altum spokeswoman.

40% of Riga multi-apartment houses or about 4,000 houses are managed by “Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks” (RNP). The company's board chair, Ronalds Neimanis, said renovation was completed for five homes, while 106 buildings are in different stages of the project's development. He acknowledged that the company has not yet been actively involved in projects, but welcomes the activities of the new Riga City Council coalition, for example by restoring the work of the Riga Energy Council, which could develop model projects for the renovation of serial buildings.

“This is the way it could be made more quickly and simply, above all, more understandable for people. Because each project is currently being executed as a unique project. From our fund around 40% of houses are standard houses, this could be the direction in which we should start working straight away," Neimanis said.

RNP manages 42% of serial-production buildings. Half a billion euro is needed for renovation.

Edmunds Cepurītis, Chairman of the Housing and Environment Committee of the Riga City Council, said that until now the main financing of the buildings had come from Altum, but that it would not be enough.

“The Riga Energy Agency can be the responsible authority to ensure that, first of all, residents are prepared to invest in their properties. Secondly, that they have something to invest – there are funds linked to finance in a variety of ways – from public funds and loans, so that houses do not start collapsing and at times we achieve climate objectives and pay smaller bills. What we are trying to do now: increase funding that comes to Altum from the European Union fund and now also the Recovery and Resilience Facility (..) If we can make a loan with low interest rates in the long term, it becomes beneficial for any resident, even without any part of the grant," Cepurītis said.

The Chair of RNP points to the problems of multi-apartment housing managers in Riga – a large variability of owners and tenants, large houses with 100 and more apartments whose owners find it difficult to agree. There are also systemic problems.

"European Union's high requirements in the preparation of documentation. Can't be that the homeowner representative leads this project, a team of professionals are needed who are able to manage it all.

"Of course, the Covid-19 [pandemic] also affects both people's solvency and the interest in long-term commitment has reduced. A big problem – not only in Riga – is the long project implementation. We see they take 3 to 4 years. We have tendered construction jobs two years ago and people have taken credit at the bank and entered into a contract with Altum. Builders are refusing two-year-old prices to do these jobs, which is understandable due to increased costs. Riga is unique with the lowest thermal energy prices here. Warming the house has to achieve some percentage reduction in terms of money. Let's say, if you paid one euro per square meter, you have to get to 50 cents. If the thermal energy tariff falls, these benefits will be reduced," explained the RNP manager.

By 2050, the municipality plans to renovate and insulate 6,000 multi-apartment houses in the capital.

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