Yakutsk Conference on Ensuring a Comfortable Urban Environment Notes the Need for Comprehensive development of Arctic cities

On 22–25 May, Yakutsk is hosting the “Arctic: Territory of Development” conference on ensuring a comfortable urban environment as part of the plan of key measures of Russia’s 2021–2023 chairmanship of the Arctic Council and is being operated by the Roscongress Foundation. 

An improved standard of living is a state policy priority in the Arctic. The effectiveness of this work depends directly on, among other things, regional heads, local communities, businessmen, creative and talented people becoming involved, according to the welcome delivered at the plenary session by Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic Alexey Chekunkov

“Development of territories and creation of a quality urban environment cannot today be confined to spatial planning and development. This involves a complex of measures ringing together a broad arsenal of tools directly or indirectly affecting various sectors and spheres of life. It is gratifying that it is just such an approach that is also reflected in the forum’s business agenda,” stressed Alexey Chekunkov in his welcome speech.

“We believe an important aspect of development of the Arctic consists in consideration and harmonization of the interests of those living beyond the Arctic Circle and businesses represented there. The people’s wellbeing largely depends on the effectiveness of the region’s economic and business processes, its competitiveness on a global scale,” noted Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Arctic Senior Officials Nikolay Korchunov in his welcome to the event. “It is vital to create a comfortable urban environment in order to ensure long-term sustainable development of the region and the conditions required for retaining young people there. A smart urban environment and the latest infrastructure solutions are needed.”

Managing Director for the Far East of DOM.RF Alexander Levintal spoke reminding listeners that, at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in 2021, President Putin set the goal of developing master plans for cities of the Far East. Levintal noted the urgency of developing such plans for Arctic cities, too, making it possible to understand the strategy and direction for developing population centres in the Arctic. In addition, at the EEF on 5–8 September 2022, the plan is to present the Far Eastern rental programme.

“Maximum use must be made of the available mechanisms. Unfortunately, bank loans have today mostly become unavailable for resolving the given issues, but DOM.RF infrastructure bonds are a key aspect. Our rates remain 3.5–4.5% for 15–30 years. Active use is made of this tool by a number of territories. In addition, I would like to note, as well, the development of rented housing. Here we have already developed mechanisms: corporate rent and a number of others. And we are now working on the question of Far Eastern rent, where the state and region will together part finance someone’s rental,” Alexander Levintal emphasized.

First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Kirill Bychkov named the key tasks so far developed for the Yakutsk master plan. He stated that the master plan was a document for development and should take full account of all the city’s specific features, including economic ones. 

“We will take account of the trends in young growing cities. This is the key guiding element we want to reflect in the master plan. Each city must differ from the othersNeither the economic nor the architectural aspect should predominate. The master plan should be as balanced as possible, Kirill Bychkov noted.

According to Arctic Development Representative of the Governor of the Arkhangelsk Region Dmitry Yurkov, one such direction for development of Russia’s northern territories is industrial and environmental tourism, as well as hunting and fishing tourism. “The experience of Far Eastern mortgage at 2% would provide for comfortable living in the Arctic territories of the Arkhangelsk Region,” stated Dmitry Yurkov.

“We would all welcome the experience of the Far Eastern 2% mortgage for all our territories not only to replenish our comfortable living with tented housing but also those who reside on this territory permanently,” said the representative of the Arkhangelsk Region Governor.

“Since August 2021, there have been over four thousand applications for an Arctic Hectare in the Murmansk Region,” said the Minister of Property Relations of the Murmansk Region Viktoria Minkina. According to her, one support measure for development of housing construction in the Murmansk Region consists in the “Your Home in the Arctic” programme, which can also be used by recipients of an “Arctic Hectare”.

“People who receive a hectare for use may get one million roubles for building their home. This is quiteconsiderable financial assistanceWe see major potential in developing all possible measures taken by the state for people to receive land quickly and free of charge, to develop it and create their own projects on the lands of the north,” Viktoria Minkina stressed.

Managing Director of the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation Ivan Pechorin spoke about air transport being crucial for the Arctic. For instance, in order to make Yakutia more accessible by transport, two state support programmes are being successfully implemented. Under the first of these, certain categories of the population (young people up to the age of 23 years, women over 55 years of age, men over sixty, members of big families, the disabled) may use discounted air tickets from Yakutsk to Moscow and a number of other directions. The second programme, “Far East Residential Registration”, offers an opportunity for residents of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) to buy subsidised ait tickets to the central part of the country.

“The Ministries of Transport and for Development of the Far East and the Arctic have developed a draft resolution of the Russian Government on co-financing out of the federal budget of expenses of the Far East and the Arctic on local airline flights within regions of the country. The document is currently under consideration by the Russian Government. We believe it is very important for Yakutia, for Chukotka, for all the Arctic territories to speed up this work on making tickets accessible to the public,” said Ivan Pechorin.

The key task in developing the major cities of the Arctic zone consists in housing renovation, according to Deputy Director for Regional Development of the Information and Analytical Center of the State Commission for Arctic Development, Maxim Dankin. 

“Talking about big cities, such as Norilsk, we understand that we won’t be able to attract talented specialists for developing business to live in decrepit housing. To do so, city renovation is required, so this is a crucial task. In addition to housing, questions of education, social infrastructure development and the environment must be handled,” said Maxim Dankin. 

As part of the “Arctic: Territory of Development” conference on ensuring a comfortable urban environment, leading experts will discuss strategic planning and the service economy for sustainable development of the Arctic, the role of a quality, satisfying urban environment in increasing the vitality of Arctic cities, the creative economy, city master plans, as well as new instruments and the role of socio-cultural projects in developing the urban environment. The conference participants will touch separately on implementing the “Arctic Hectare” programme and development of tourism. The conference is attended by representatives of the Ministry for Development of the Far East and the Arctic, major companies and Russia’s Arctic regions, and leading experts

Reference Information:

Official accounts of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council:

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