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Problem of hazardous accommodation worsening in Russia

March 14, 2014, 15:47 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Ryumin

MOSCOW, March 14. /ITAR-TASS/. A resident of barracks from the village of Izvestkovy in the Jewish Autonomous Region, Russia’s Far East, went for a ten-day hunger strike this March. Alexander Koinov, a person with disabilities, decided to draw the authorities’ attention to the problem of dilapidated housing.

Village residents have already been fighting for their right to decent living conditions for the second year running. Most apartment buildings in Izvestkovy are too shabby, threatening to go rack and ruin.

This is not the only case. A share of dilapidated and hazardous accommodation makes up 3.5% of Russia’s total housing fund. The Russian State Statistics Service Rosstat said in 2012 it registered more than 100 million square meters of such apartment buildings, of them 22.4 million were hazardous.

National television channels regularly broadcast videos showing that hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens continue to live in non-human conditions in the 21st century. The ceiling is cracking, water running from walls and no water in water pipes, while small boys and girls are crawling around.

The authorities realize how serious the problem is and try to tackle it. But evidently they do not succeed as the percentage of shabby apartment blocks is growing year after year.

The May decrees of President Vladimir Putin forming the basis for the state socio-economic policy name resettlement of residents from dilapidated housing as a vital social task. “This task has not been resolved yet and this problem should hang as a sword of Damocles over us,” Putin said last April. “Russian citizens cannot live in non-human conditions all the time.”

The president instructed to resolve the problem of hazardous accommodation within the upcoming years, because tenants of such apartment blocks live in worse conditions than those in shabby ones. Putin also called for preventing a rise in dilapidated housing.

However, the Russian authorities’ campaign against ageing housing reminds of a fire that spreads faster than efforts to put it out. Really, much has been done. The Fund for Housing and Utilities Reform says for the past five years almost 500,000 people have moved from hazardous buildings to new apartment blocks. More that 5.5 million square meters of hazardous housing have been liquidated.

An apartment building is considered hazardous, if walls, ceilings or floor may ruin there. Dilapidated housing includes stone-wall and wooden-wall apartment blocks with more than a 70% and 65% tear-and-wear degree respectively. As the country’s housing fund practically was not renovated, shabby apartment buildings had been steadily growing in Russia since the 1990s. Nothing has changed this trend so far. Since 1990 the square of hazardous housing has increased approximately seven-fold, while that of dilapidated accommodation tripled. For the past two decades the square of hazardous housing has been increasing by 1.3 million square meters a year on the average.

According to the Ministry of Housing and Construction, last year only 51% of citizens living in shabby conditions could get new flats. Mikhail Men said in 2013 his ministry planned to resettle 42,000 people, but in reality only 21,400 moved to new apartment blocks. Only 13 of the 83 Russian regions managed to fulfill the resettlement program by 100%.

Last November, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev decreed that all citizens accommodated in hazardous apartment buildings should be resettled to new flats by September 1, 2017. The state resettlement program includes the whole hazardous housing fund occupying more than 13 million square meters as of January 1, 2012.

The statistics service’s data differs much from the government’s figures. Rosstat said in 2012 Russia’s hazardous housing fund comprised not 13 million square meters, but more than 22 million square meters.

“Around 80% of Russia’s housing is ageing,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta cited Metrium Group director-general Maria Litinetskaya as saying. “Many houses are in an extremely deplorable state. Apartment buildings worn by age do not become better, as practically nobody is engaged in their reconstruction. Therefore we see no certain progress in resolving the problem of dilapidated accommodation.”

Constant lack of funds and bad organization of the resettlement process are main factors slowing down this work, the daily quotes Yelena Shomina, professor at the State and Municipal Management Department of the National Research University — Higher School of Economics, as saying. “The housing construction is expensive. An apartment building, where under the given standards one square meter costs 20,000 rubles ($545), cannot be built anymore,” she said. “The prime cost of construction works is much higher. Otherwise, we have apartment blocks of no good quality, which people reject. And municipalities have no money even for such housing.”


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