“The apartment is fine. We got some food out of the fridge and watered your plants,” texted me a fortnight ago.
For almost two months I have not been able to return to the apartment I rent in Kyiv. Just before the start of the war, I had left for a vacation that unexpectedly ended in seeking temporary refuge in a foreign country. Still, my home is somehow intact, which gives me hope to return soon and see the Ukrainian capital’s iconic chestnut trees in bloom.
While the building I lived in has so far survived the Russian invasion, thousands more have been devastated. By early April, nearly 7,000 residential buildings were reportedly destroyed or damaged. The extent of the destruction is still unknown, as cities like Mariupol are not yet liberated from Russian occupation forces.
About 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes since Russia launched its invasion in February. Nearly seven million of them have moved to other parts of the country.
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There is a burning question for the internally displaced: where to find accommodation?
Initially, Ukrainian local authorities focused on providing emergency shelters. They desperately searched for empty buildings – such as gymnasiums, schools, kindergartens and sanatoriums – and turned them into sleeping areas. In several areas, local governments and NGOs have begun to reallocate university dormitories. The Ukrainian State Property Fund announced that its assets would be used to house displaced people.
But that was not enough. On March 7, the city of Lviv in western Ukraine alone was home to at least 200,000 people, leading the mayor to say it had reached its limit and to ask for help from International organisations.
Two months into the Russian invasion, discussions are now turning to longer-term housing solutions. In Lviv, the construction of temporary modular housing, using shipping containers, has started. The city authorities have also announced that they are ready to buy empty apartments from development companies.
At the national level, the Deputy Head of the President’s Office claimed in a recent interview that the Ukrainian government will soon buy new apartments, which were not sold before the war, to house displaced people. Another possible option advocated by housing researchers is to use vacant properties to temporarily house displaced people, under the provisions of Ukrainian martial law. But it is not yet considered.