Written by Andrey Vakulenko – MACON Realty Group, EECFA Russia
- The first case of COVID-19 was registered in Russia on March 2. Since then, the situation has developed quite rapidly and on April 16, the country has 27.9 thousand cases. There is no official quarantine or emergency throughout the country to date. The government declared a «non-working days regime» from March 30 to April 30. During this period only vital organizations and areas of activity continue to operate (continuous production; medical organizations; organizations providing the population with food and essential goods; banks and financial organizations and some others). Other companies must temporarily suspend business (while maintaining wages to employees), or, if they have an opportunity, they can switch to remote work.
- Also, on March 30, a self-isolation regime was announced on a national scale. This regime implies that citizens should not go outside without urgent need and should limit contact with other people. At the same time, the regime of self-isolation is not a quarantine, but an easier form of restrictions, whose violation entails only administrative responsibility, and not criminal, like violation of quarantine.
- However, in different regions the situation with incidence is developing in different ways and in order to contain the spread of the virus in some regions full quarantine or additional restrictive measures have been introduced with a complete ban on moving around the city and region without special permits. Such an enhanced regime with more stringent restrictions on movement is temporarily in effect in 26 out of 85 regions of the Russian Federation. In Krasnodar region too.
- The construction sector is ranked by the government as a continuous production, therefore, currently there is no complete or partial ban on construction work, however, the situation will depend on the incidence rate and the dynamics of the spread of the virus. Of all the Russian regions, temporary restrictions on construction work have been introduced only in Moscow and the Moscow region (locations with the most COVID cases). Here the construction of all objects, except medical and transport ones, has temporarily been suspended. In other regions of Russia, a construction stop was discussed, but not undertaken.
The new EECFA Russia Construction Forecast Report is planned to be issued on 29 June 2020. Sample report and order
Anticovid measures in construction
- Although construction has not stopped anywhere, except for the capital’s region, the industry is already ranked among those that will be most affected by the crisis. The final package of measures to support the construction industry is still under discussion, but it is already clear that these measures will extend mainly to the biggest segment of the construction industry in Russia – residential construction. The anti-crisis program, currently being developed by the Ministry of Construction, includes subsidizing interest rates on mortgage loans to support demand, as well as credit and tax moratorium for developers and reducing the cost of project financing (lower lending rates).
- Another possible direction of support may be the purchase of unsold apartments from developers by state-owned companies. Purchased apartments can be used for social rentals or sold later on the open market.
- In addition, until January 1, 2021 housing developers will not be fined or otherwise punished for the improper fulfillment of obligations under contracts in shared construction participation (for the delays in the completion of residential buildings).
- In non-residential and civil engineering segments, as support measures, it is planned to increase a number of government contracts and lift advances on those contracts from 30% to 50%.
Factors limiting the construction sector’s performance
- The current situation in the Russian construction industry is determined by the macroeconomic background which depends not only on the negative effects of the coronavirus, but also on the consequences of the “price war” with Saudi Arabia in the oil market and the OPEC + deal, which was disrupted in early March, followed by a collapse in prices for oil and the rapid devaluation of the national currency. Many experts talk about the “perfect storm” in which the Russian economy is now. All this will directly affect the income level of citizens, which will also inevitably affect the construction industry, especially housing construction.
- At the same time, the effectiveness of supporting demand with the planned subsidization of mortgage rates is most likely to only slow down its decline, but not prevent it. Banks will not significantly increase mortgage rates, but the share of approved applications for borrowers from the most affected sectors of the Russian economy may decrease: tourism, hospitality, air travel, advertising, catering, non-food retail, etc. Tighter requirements for borrowers and a drop in real income will inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of transactions in the market.
- The ruble exchange rate is highly dependent on the dynamics of oil prices, which, despite OPEC + new agreements, are expected to be at low levels at least until the autumn or until the end of the year. Accordingly, the ruble exchange rate against world currencies should remain at the current low level, contributing to the rapid rise in price of imported building materials, the price of many of which is tied to the dollar.
- Limited workforce is also a direct consequence of the pandemic and will also adversely affect the construction industry. Traditionally, a large number of guest workers from neighboring countries are employed in the Russian construction industry. Closing borders with these countries is expected to result in a shortage of cheap labor.