The State Duma adopted in the first reading a bill that will allow the city authorities to determine the specifics of the procedure for calculating heating fees in apartment buildings in order to avoid abrupt growth in some years. Many deputies asked why such attention was paid specifically to Moscow - after all, sharp temperature changes between warm and cold winters also occur in other regions of the Russian Federation.
The government introduced the bill in pursuance of the presidential instruction dated February 23, 2022, and this instruction appeared as a result of an appeal from the capital authorities. The explanatory note states that the goal is “to prevent a significant increase in fees for housing and communal services associated with annual climate fluctuations and, as a consequence, to prevent the growth of social tension.”
The fact is that the rules approved by the government in 2011 allow one of two ways to pay for heating: either only during the heating period, or evenly throughout the year. In Moscow, the second method was chosen, that is, payments are accrued to the population evenly (1/12), based on the volume of thermal energy consumption in the house for the previous year.
But, recalled Deputy Head of the Ministry of Construction Alexei Eresko, “due to climate changes in recent years, Moscow has experienced either long and abnormally cold winters, or very warm ones and often with above-zero temperatures.” At the end of the year, under this procedure, the population should be issued a one-time adjustment payment.
The current procedure in the capital makes it possible to prevent a sharp increase in payments during the heating season. But the regions (and Moscow too) do not yet have the right to smooth out fluctuations in heating fees based on data on the volume of heat consumed not for one previous year, but for a longer period, three or five years, for example. As a result, the Ministry of Construction states, in the capital, in the conditions of the extremely warm winter of 2020 and the cold winter of 2021, in 2022 the monthly payment increased by 25% on average compared to 2021, and for individual houses the increase exceeded 50%.
To prevent this from happening in the future, it is proposed to introduce a targeted, “about Moscow” norm into the law “On the status of the capital of the Russian Federation” and the Housing Code: from January 1, 2022, that is, retroactively, the capital can calculate the monthly payment for heat in apartment buildings at based on data from the last few years.
“The bill, excuse the unparliamentary word, allows the fee adjustment to be spread out over the entire year so that citizens pay a little bit throughout the year,” Svetlana Razvorotneva (“ER”), deputy head of the Duma Committee on Construction and Housing and Public Utilities, explained to her colleagues. “First we take a pilot region, look at the new calculation procedure, and if it justifies itself, we can bring the standard to the level of the entire country,” she said. The Committee, having made many comments on the initiative, nevertheless recommended supporting it in the first reading.
Deputies from different factions asked why Moscow was chosen as the pilot region and why only the pockets of the capital's residents deserve protection from sharp temperature fluctuations between winters.
From Mr. Eresko’s answers it followed: Moscow was chosen because it is one of 20 regions of the country where the payment method is chosen for 1/12 of the heat actually consumed per year, 45 constituent entities of the Russian Federation charge residents of apartment buildings only during the heating season, and the rest have a mixed system, depending on the municipality. In addition, the official added, Moscow has accumulated “good analytics” in statistics over several years, and the range of fluctuations in thermal energy consumption between years is indeed “significant.”
Alexey Kurinny (KPRF) asked why not immediately give the right to a more flexible approach to calculating the monthly payment for heat (based on data for several years, and not just for the previous year) to all regions at once, and called “municipal separatism” wrong. Mr. Eresko assured that by the second reading the government is ready to discuss all proposals, including this.
Many were interested in how the innovation would affect the amount of payment for heating, and what would happen if, say, according to calculations in five years, it turns out that the payment should be lower. “There are fears that this could lead to a deterioration in the current procedure for determining payments for heat,” noted Yana Lantratova (“SR”). But Mr. Eresko repeated in response only several times: the government believes that the proposed approach will allow “leveling out payments”, and the innovation is not considered a “hidden form of increasing tariffs”.
The head of the Duma Commission for ensuring the housing rights of citizens, Galina Khovanskaya (“SR”), in her speech admitted: “there really is a problem, and not only in Moscow,” although it was in Moscow that it came to demonstrations and rallies, when payments for heating began to exceed several times previous periods." But the commission is against the adoption of the bill in this form, because it creates “complete uncertainty,” said Ms. Khovanskaya, and the fact that this is a pilot project is known only from the words of the deputy minister and deputies, in the package of documents submitted to the State Duma for there is not a word about this. In turn, Pavel Kachkaev, on behalf of United Russia, proposed to support the concept of the bill, and then finalize it for the second reading, taking into account the comments made in the conclusion of the relevant committee. Apart from United Russia, none of the factions expressed their position from the rostrum.
34 deputies voted against.