Ukraine’s construction market amid the pandemic in 2021: a mixed bag

Written by Sergii Zapototskyi – UVECON, EECFA Ukraine

Since Ukraine is dependent on global economic changes to a great extent, the global crisis triggered by the pandemic has greatly affected its construction industry. Let’s see how.

Good news, bad news

The pace of housing construction significantly slowed down in Ukraine; the index of construction products for 2020 in the residential real estate segment amounted to 81.5% in comparison with 2019. At the same time, the average price per square meter grew by 6.5%. Yet the volume of non-residential constructions remained almost unchanged (99.3%) and civil engineering constructions even outstripped 2019 (111.6%) due to the implementation of the state program dubbed ‘Big Construction’ within which more than 3.9 thousand km of roads were repaired, and 114 schools, 100 kindergartens and 101 sports facilities were either built or reconstructed.

Source: freepik.com

As a real estate expert evaluation shows, more properties are being bought in the large cities of Ukraine such as Kiev, Odessa, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Lviv. The reason is the growing population number which is a good stimulus for the economy, construction, the development of engineering and social infrastructure, as well as business activity. In these cities, including the capital city, this year might see a further rise in prices and a greater revival of the real estate market (an increase in construction projects of residential complexes, cottage settlements, low-rise residential buildings, office and shopping centers, underground and ground parking lots).

The latest EECFA Construction Forecast Report Ukraine can be purchased on eecfa.com.

Residential

Influencing factors and reform on the downside

In 2021 the key influencing factors, which are also the risks for the real estate market of Ukraine, may be the failures of healthcare and vaccinations, which will lead to the disappointment of consumers and a passivity on their side.

And this year the factors making real estate investment risky will not be eliminated either: corruption and administrative/regulatory problems like the reform of SACI (State Architecture and Construction Inspectorate of Ukraine). SACI was planned to be liquidated on grounds of being a “corruption department”, and a transparent system for issuing permits and construction supervision was to be created instead. But what happened was that the market was simply halted. The system is on the brink of collapse; already built facilities are not being put into operation and many projects scheduled to start last year were postponed by developers. A series of defaults by high-profile developers (Arkada Bank, Ukrbud, etc.) also undermined investor confidence in the residential segment – financing housing construction in Ukraine is mostly carried out at the expense of future homeowners.

Suburban housing construction and mortgage program on the upside

Amid the pandemic most buyers are focusing on suburban housing construction as during the lockdown the remote work scheme emerged and many companies are willing to permanently switch to it. Thus, living in a city with its transport and environmental problems lost its lure for many when one can live 20-30 minutes away from the city in a comfortable suburban home. We are returning to the concept of full-fledged satellite cities with various types of buildings (multi-storey terraced houses, townhouses, cottages, etc.). Therefore, the growth in the volume of suburban construction seems to be a promising trend for the market this year, and possibly in subsequent years as well.

In March 2021 a new government program for providing preferential mortgage loans is expected to be launched. Mortgages at 7% are a long-awaited tool to revive Ukraine’s construction market and reduce the cost of housing loans. Developers say affordable lending could increase home sales by at least 10%.

Commercial

The commercial real estate sector in Ukraine had a significant blow due to the lockdown:  rising vacancies, dropping rental rates, and new construction works still being postponed.

Retail

Retail was the first to be hit by the spring 2020 lockdown as many shops and malls were closed. In November 2020, there was a so-called ‘weekend lockdown’ in effect, while a full lockdown occurred from January 8 to 24, 2021. During the lockdown consumer demand fell sharply, but then it recovered quickly. The NBU (National Bank of Ukraine) estimates that the pandemic-related crisis hit this segment less than it did offices as it was boosted by rising incomes and the quarantine flexibility (the entertainment segment was hit hard, though). Vacancy rates in the market rose by 5.4pp, and the average daily traffic in shopping centers sank by 25%-40%. In large cities of Ukraine, new supply in 2020 was about 113.5 thousand sqm. GLA, and even more shopping centers are planned to be completed in 2021-2022. This year, for instance, at least three shopping and entertainment centers are to open in Kiev (​​147.5 thousand sqm. GLA) and two in Kharkiv (122 thousand sqm GLA), among others.

Office

Offices were hammered by the pandemic, which led to a drop in rates to 10% in total in the first half of 2020. The balance of supply and demand will likely deteriorate in the near future. At the end of 2019, developers announced to release a significant volume of new supply for 2020 (about 230 thousand sqm). However, by end 2020, the real indicator of new supply was 105 thousand sqm, and completion dates for the rest was postponed to 2021-2022. Only 49% of the total office space announced for 2020 was completed last year. Now supply exceeds demand, but the situation will likely change if business activity in Ukraine revives after the pandemic subsides.

Hotel

The nearly 70% decline in passenger traffic at airports caused a decrease in hotel occupancy to the level of 15%-20% during the strict lockdown and to the level of 30%-35% in the laxer period. (For comparison, in the pre-quarantine period it was 53%). Thus, new formats had to be introduced, so an office/co-working component or service apartments were added to the hotel function.

Industry

Growth in online commerce in the pandemic increased demand for warehouses, making this segment the most resilient in the current crisis. In the long term, a decrease in vacancy and an increase in rental rates for warehouse and industrial premises are expected due to hiked demand, limited supply and the small number of projects under construction.

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