Author: Orazio Alberti, OCIO, Independent Observatory on Housing in Venice
4 February 2020
This article is an extract of a more detailed study that can be read at this link (in Italian).
The material that we present here takes its cue from the “Walk to reclaim housing” promoted by OCIO, which took place in Castello on 19 October 2019.
One of the stops along the way was the residential area of Quintavalle, one of the oldest public housing neighborhoods in Venice, today managed by ATER: it is a quarter now abandoned for many years, without maintenance, with 25 to 30 residences out of a total of 84 empty, for too long. There is widespread decay and rats in the no longer cared for gardens.
After several meetings with residents in preparation for this walk we asked ourselves: in the last few years, how many major maintenance or renovation projects has ATER carried out in the Historic City of Venice?
We looked for the answer to this question by analyzing the official sources, retrievable on the ATER web site in the section “Transparent Administration”; the budgets for 2011-2019 and final expenses for 2011-2018.
Planned projects, in progress and completed in the Historic City of Venice from 2011 to 2018
In 2017 ATER managed 2,040 homes in the Historic City, 506 on the islands and coast, and 2,638 on the mainland for a total of 5,184 homes in the Municipal City of Venice, of which 791 are vacant because they are uninhabitable, being in need of maintenance and repair work such as bringing utilities up to code, or the resolution of critical sanitation and health problems.
These assets are aging, an average of 80 years old; in the Historic City of Venice a considerable share of the homes were built between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. These are residences, therefore, that would require constant maintenance.
Between 2011 and 2018 ATER planned restorations and major maintenance for 296 homes, of which 190 are vacant. The total planned investment is equal or close to 10.5 million Euro.
Moving on to looking at the progress of the financed work we learn, however, that in the period being considered only a minimal share of the planned projects – less than 10% – have been completed.
The only restoration project that is in progress concerns a building with 19 residences located in the eastern part of the island of Giudecca, in Campo Marte. The project, begun in 2007, has been halted for years. The work, restarted in June 2019, was to have been finished by December of the same year. At the moment (January 2020) the project is not yet complete, thirteen years after its planning.
Two projects have been completed:
- the first is in Sacca Fisola, Calle Boseghe, a project on the books since 2011. The work, delayed from year to year, was completed in the second half of 2019;
- the second project, finished quickly (begun in 2012 and completed in 2013), involved major maintenance, financed by the Ministry of the Interior, of 7 vacant residences destined for immigrants.
The remaining projects are: either all postponed to the three year Program of Projects for 2019-2021 (172 homes), or have not been financed, despite the fact that they are included on the list of work for the year (84 homes).
Almost all of these projects have been funded in the Strategic Plan of the Veneto Housing Policy for activity to be completed in the period 2013-2020. The Strategic Plan, however, rests on an unstable base: the financial resources for beginning the projects.
The regional allocations destined for financing these projects have turned out be sporadic, and problems of liquidity have led to a continuous postponement of disbursements.
The actual economic resources to be used by ATER were to be collected on one hand through a special plan to sell residences to the residents, or via public auction if vacant, and on the other hand, through the revision of lease rates. Both of these operations have failed: in the four -year period 2015-2018, the number of residences actually sold was 106, in contrast to the prediction of 100 per year; the reform of the lease rates has not followed and will be actuated only with L.R.39/2017, which takes up its bases. In the meantime, still between 2015 and 2018, average rents have remained stable and late payments have risen from 5.7 million to 6.7 million Euro annually.
The Veneto Region has also noted that the Strategic Plan is not proceeding, and in 2015 the regional Administration postponed the deadline for beginning already funded work for the first time, but this postponement is not enough. Consequently, in 2018 it further postpones the start of the projects not yet begun between 2018 and 2020.
From 2017-2018 the funding committed annually for ordinary maintenance equals 3.2 million Euro, of which 1.2 million are for the Historic City and the islands.
Many doubts about the actual amount of work completed (not reported) arise from the reading of the data contained in the final balance sheets and related to the effective expenditure for all of the maintenance projects, ordinary and major: 0.8 million Euro in 2017; 1.8 million in 2018, sums far lower than those planned for just ordinary maintenance.
- The restoration project for a building with 19 residences in Campo Marte at Giudecca must still be completed, a project scheduled for completion in 2011;
- Between 2011 and 2018 in the Historic City of Venice, ATER was able to complete only two major maintenance projects for a total of 21 residences, of which 7 are vacant;
- The Strategic Plan for Housing of 2013-2020, adopted by the Veneto Region, has turned out to be a failure: of the 133 residences to be recovered, planned in 2014 by ATER, not even one has been completed, rather, from delay to delay, no project was even started in 2018;
- Even the ordinary maintenance of the buildings and residences is reduced to minimal terms: 1.2 million Euro in the Historic City and islands, where ATER manages around 2,500 aging residences;
- Thus it should be underlined that lacking maintenance of the public housing assets is the final outcome of the total underestimation of social housing on the part of the State and the Region, which translates in the absence of multi-year plan for interventions and a chronic lack of funding that has caused widespread and serious deterioration of a public asset, in particular of vacant homes that have never been recovered.
The triennial Program of project for 2019-2021
We come to today and to the prospects for the near future.
Between 2019 and 2020 ATER has planned the restoration of 710 residences, of which 203 are vacant, in the Metropolitan City.
The actual completion of these projects, which would surely represent a significant inversion of the trend with respect to the absolute modesty of accomplishments in the preceding years, is still yet to be seen. In preceding budgets as well presidents and special commissioners of ATER have formulated projections about projects, then postponed year after year and to this day not yet begun. Therefore we will need to wait for the publication of the final balance sheet for 2019 to understand how many of the planned projects will be brought to completion and how many homes will be made available to those requesting ERP housing.
For now we can only note that the majority of the projects planned for Venice and the islands for 2019-21, 128 residences, were financed by the Strategic Plan in 2013. If the deadlines are to be maintained, the work will be started seven years after the approval of the financing law.
The same consideration applies to 21 vacant residences funded with the L.80/2014 “Plan for recovery and repair of real estate and public housing residences” that, again if the deadlines are respected, will be begun in 2019.
In December 2018 the Veneto Region put out a call for the attribution of a new source of funding allocated by L.80/2014. Thanks to the assignment of this funding, ATER will be able to recover 164 homes, inhabited or not, in the Metropolitan City: only crumbs go to the Historic City, two small projects (9 homes) for a total sum of 108 thousand Euro, or 2.8% of the 3.9 million in accredited funding.
The vast majority of this funding is to be sent to the mainland, about 3 million Euro, and to other communities in the Metropolitan City (800 thousand Euro).
Venice: costs of restoration and sale
The president of ATER, Raffaele Seranzon, would also have a proposal for recovering financial resources to use for major maintenance in the Historic City: sell homes, possibly vacant, taking advantage of the possibility reintroduced by L.R.39/2017, which removed the barrier to the sale of homes located in Venice and the islands imposed by the preceding law.
The same law establishes that: “The sale of free homes is to be done by public auction, with rising offers, taking the market price as the auction base as determined by certified expertise.”
A contest, then, to the highest bidder, which recalls that recently authorized by the Regional Administration for the sale of 21 empty homes in Venice belonging to ULSS 3: there are no restrictions, not on the buyers nor on the use of the homes that are sold. Even public housing (which every once in a while it is good to recall that these were built thanks to employee payroll deductions, or by general taxation) can be purchased as second homes, or for investment, to then be resold or rented as tourist lodgings, going to feed a speculative real estate market that continues to expel the residents of the Historic City.
A final note: the declared goal of ATER’s president is that of using the resources realized through the sale of the homes to restore vacant residences, but in the last decade the reality has been quite different: between 2009 and 2018 the Company has sold 364 residences (to the residents or at auction if empty) in the Metropolitan City, taking in 20.5 million Euro; during these same years, however, the vacant residences managed by ATER have tripled: there were 723 in 2009 (equal to 6.1% of the assets managed), and have grown to 2,329 (21.7%) in 2018.
OCIO is an independent body that analyses the housing situation in Venice.