Apartment associations and government calm in face of EU renovation plan

Demolition work in Tallinn.
Demolition work in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Spokespeople for Estonian apartment associations and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications remain calm regarding the EU's planned renovation obligation (EPBD) and said on the Wednesday "Terevisioon" morning show that seeking greater energy efficiency is necessary in any case.

"There is no critical confusion here for us. The need to renovate buildings has been around for years, and I would not refer to it as forced renovation. We all want out surroundings and environment to be cleaner and more sustainable. Therefore, we are hardly hot and bothered," said Dagmar Mattiisen, member of the Union of Estonian Apartment Associations.

"Owners usually care about their property, people care about their homes –everyone wants to renovate. Our buildings are waiting for a new support round. Rather, it is that funding has been inconsistent or piecemeal, which has caused stoppages," she added.

Mattiisen remarked that money might not always be a problem. "If people value where they live, they fix up their building irrespective of how much the bank thinks a square meter should fetch."

Apartment building. Source: Jenny Va / ERR

14,000 apartment buildings in need of renovation

Mattiisen suggested that around 14,000 apartment buildings need fixing up in Estonia. She finds the plans currently being negotiated in the EU to be flexible and does not believe owners will be punished.

"I believe the deadlines are negotiable, and I would refrain from intimidating homeowners – that you will be evicted from your own home if you fail to renovate by this date. I would be very calm about it all. It is just a plan at this stage, and we will fix up many buildings in the time left," the spokesperson for apartment associations said.

Ministry: more even funding in order

Ivo Jaanisoo, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in charge of construction, said that referring to the initiative as forced renovation does not sit well with him. "Even when the directive is eventually passed, it will not stand for mandatory renovation. I liked the agreement between the Council and Commission, according to which every country could determine its own goal for 2033. In other words, Member States would lay down the rules for how to reach targets," he said on "Terevisioon" Wednesday.

He emphasized that all three sides in the EU have voiced their initial positions, with negotiations over the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) only beginning. The undersecretary suggested talks could take six months.

Asked about renovation funding, Jaanisoo admitted that while support has come from the EU budget until now, contribution from the Estonian taxpayer needs to be considered in the future.

"We have depended solely on EU funding for apartment buildings so far, which is cyclical by nature. We get the money at certain intervals, which is followed by a lightning round of applications before the money runs out again. Now, the question needs to be put to the Estonian taxpayer to make sure the state budget would contribute," he added.

Jaanisoo said that the Riigikogu approved Estonia's building reconstruction strategy a few years ago, which should now be put to work, adding that the document needs an operational program, which the ministry is working on.

Like Mattiisen, the undersecretary emphasized the need for stable funding.

Jaanisoo also said he doubts the directive will end up punishing owners of unrenovated buildings. "We will see how the negotiations will go, whether there will be coercion or not. I dare predict countries will get to decide the pace, while keeping to the interim targets. /.../ We will know toward the end of the year, after the Parliament, Council and Commission have arrived at a solution.

Need to renovate considerable

The ministry's representative admitted that the need to renovate buildings is "undoubtedly considerable."

"The average building is older than the average resident in Estonia – when the golden jubilee has come and gone and one's condition is becoming a matter of some concern. Luckily, the number of healthy years a building can have is not limited, provided it is kept in good shape and reconstructed regularly," he said.

Lasnamäe. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Jaanisoo gave the example of Tallinn's so-called sleeping districts. "Let us look at Lasnamäe where the first micro district was built in 1973, exactly 50 years ago. Mustamäe was finished by then, as were many other districts with blocks of flats. The time has come to fix them up."

He said that energy saving did not top the priorities list back when the buildings were erected. "People's expectations for living environment have changed over time, people want an increasingly comfortable life, which is reflected in real estate value." Jaanisoo suggested that a renovated building would fetch more per square meter, and practical experience suggest people do not prefer leaving old buildings to renovating them.

"The 1,400 buildings we have fixed up are rather sought-after properties," the undersecretary remarked.

European Parliament's renovation targets stark

The proposed revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive aims to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption in the EU building sector by 2030, and make it climate neutral by 2050. It also aims to increase the rate of renovations of energy-inefficient buildings and improve information-sharing on energy performance.

All new buildings should be zero-emission from 2028, with the deadline for new buildings occupied, operated or owned by public authorities in 2026. All new buildings should be equipped with solar technologies by 2028, where technically suitable and economically feasible, while residential buildings undergoing major renovation have until 2032.

According to the European Commission, buildings in the EU are responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption and 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. On December 15, 2021, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, as part of the so-called Fit for 55 package.

Renovated apartment building. Source: ERR


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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