What to do with the old residential blocks? Only realistic target: Simply refurbish them!


Part 3

Replying to your questions

Hello to everyone. One of my constant readers, Mr Pedro Matos, sent me a very interesting question. He is a foreigner living in Romania and asks something that thousands of people ask as well: What will happen with the old blocks of Bucharest?

Pedro’s question is here:

“Dear Ilias,

 My question is simple: Do you believe there is a market for refurbishing existing homes and apartment buildings in Bucuresti? Is this a viable option, both in technical,economical and social terms? Or will these thousand of “bloc” buildings from the communist era will just have to be demolished over time, in order to make room for newer, modern apartment buildings? Also, how do you rate the possibility of urban sprawl, or the increase of suburban areas in a city like Bucuresti in 10 to 20 years time?

Best regards.

Pedro Matos”

(Please keep in mind that the following analysis is based on Real Estate point of view, I am not an architect or engineer, or urban development expert in order to see things from their own point of view).

On Wednesday and Thursday I explained to you:

  • The 3 categories of old residential blocks
  • The positive and negative elements of them
  • Why it is impossible to demolish and rebuild them

So what is the only realistic solution?

What did the other countries do for the same problem?
Romania is not the only country of this world that has old buildings. I know that people in this part of the world love complaining about everything. But I guarantee to you something: Time has the same effects everywhere: All buildings have problem, after a certain period of time. The difference is that in Romania people have not taken care of their properties and the State has done nothing but watching them remaining idle. Why? “In order not to disturb the public, with difficult decisions and proposals”.

But in Germany, England or France, are you able to leave your building become a… wreck? No, many countries follow a different policy:

  • Buildings are evaluated every few years
  • Property owners know that (except their rights) they also have obligations.
  • When a building is not refurbished for quite some time, it is considered “dead” by the market and loses its value very fast.
  • Each country has many other measures in order to force the owners to maintain their properties at a decent status.
  • (Don’t ask me to tell you the obligations of owners with buildings in central locations, or historical locations in any country. You would be… afraid…)

Why did they do this? Do they love to torture people?
No, they simply want their cities to continue existing in the decades to come. They know that economy does not end once a building is constructed. Also, they try to educate their citizens, in the idea that a property does not mean only “money to earn” but also “money to invest in”.

Why Romania did not do something as well?

  • The previous regime taught people to live for NOW, not to plan for the future. This behaviour is visible in property ownership as well.
  • Politicians realized that there is no reason to “disturb” people by telling them some difficult truths and (even worse) by implementing them.
  • So, as in many other aspects of life, people reached fast to the conclusion that “I have rights” means “No one can control me for what I do or say”.

“So now what is the solution?” Just one: Refurbish them
I explained to you that it impossible to demolish and construct again so many blocks. The cost is very high and there is no one to do this (please, don’t think of the State for this. Let it do its other tasks, we finished with communism…)

How can we do this?

  • Without too many words and very high targets. We want simple things and steps to be done.
  • With 3 – 4 clear procedures, for each part of the buildings that needs improvements. One procedure for the facades, another one for the consolidation of buildings, one more for the interior re-decoration of the common spaces and maybe one more for the rest. With simple and easy steps, trying to simplify all, not to make it difficult.
  • Using European Grants as well. There are many available sources for something like this, but usually there is not will to absorb them.
  • Taking into consideration the “green improvements” as well. Isolations and many other improvements are necessary (and they can even become obligatory), in order to send the right message to people.
  • The State should be involved as less as possible. The more we will see the State getting involved, the least results we will expect…

What is your opinion?


Tomorrow: What happens if we do nothing and an earthquake knocks our door?



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