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The Finnish Yle channel TV story with head of IUE Nadezhda Kosareva interview

The bathroom ceiling fell down, however, the Russian authorities believe that the house is not dangerous for those inside.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians live in intolerable conditions. Thousands of homes desperately need repairs. Some of them are in such a state that the only thing they need is to be pulled down. Many residents are afraid that their roofs will cave in on them.

It looks heartbreaking and it smells disgusting. The night before, the roof over the bathroom fell in. The room itself is on the last, fourteenth floor of a large apartment block. Flats in it are so-called “communal flats” (“kommunalka” in Russian), where each family has a room, but they all have to use a common bathroom and kitchen.

All 110 residents of one unit in such block were evacuated during the night and the workers sent by the municipal authorities cleared away the remains of the roof which collapsed. The bathroom and toilet are still full of debris and the residents cannot use them.

“This is horrible, where can we go?” Masha Kozhenova asks.

Father is alive

All the residents are worried. The night before, the little boy heard some strange noises coming from the bathroom, and when his father went to check what was going on, the ceiling collapsed. Fortunately, his father was standing in the doorway just going to step in. After that, the residents went outside.

It was cold, but they had to wait for a whole hour until busses arrived where they could stay temporarily. In the morning, when the residents returned to their homes, the bathroom was still in ruins.

Photo: remains of the roof which fell down into the bathtub.

The condition of housing is disastrous

Thousands of such accidents happen in  Russia. Housing is in a dangerously poor condition and the authorities started implementing an ambitious program involving demolition or capital repairs of the buildings which are in the worst condition. The program includes over 11.4 billion square meters of housing where 733,230 of people have to live. The Russian budget allocated RUB 183.4 billion in 2013-2017 towards this program, i.e. approximately EUR 2.6 billion.

The building where he roof caved in was not included in the program. The local authorities classified this building as housing which does not need repairs regardless of the fact that such need is painfully obvious.

The procedure for repairing residential buildings which are not considered hazardous is totally different. Residents pay monthly contributions towards capital repairs.

Nobody believes that repairs will be done

All over Russia, people treat mandatory contributions towards capital repairs with suspicion. Nobody thinks that this money will in fact go towards any work. And even if it does, many believe that their homes will not be repaired because the money will be used to repair some other buildings. The terrifying corruption in the administrative and construction sectors makes people doubt.

“Not enough money is collected, even very modest repairs cost a lot”, says Nadezhda Kosareva, the head of a Moscow-based foundation called Institute for Urban Economics.

The Institute focuses on the housing policy and Kosareva is one of the most prominent authorities on the subject in Russia. She would like to change many things in the housing policy of this country.

“First of all, I would like the government to actively invest in the construction of rental housing.”

Russia has a serious shortage of rental housing

Rental housing may be found in the private sector, however, it is outrageously illegal. Landlords and tenants both take a lot of risk because usually no lease contracts are signed. Landlords do not want to pay income tax, so all such housing is rented on the black market.

Nadezhda Kosareva believes that subsidizing mortgages should be stopped. In her opinion, this is not where help should go. Those who can get a mortgage and buy housing do not need help.

The government spends about RUB 200 billion per year on subsidies. A simple reduction of such subsidies will enable the government, according to Kosareva, to redirect considerable amounts towards improving the living conditions of the most low-income members of the public.

House owners which are below the poverty line are in a very difficult situation

House owners which are below the poverty line are the group facing especially serious problems. When the Soviet Union collapsed, people were given the right to privatize their apartments free of charge. This step was very important because the government had to create the housing market, in the Soviet Union such market simply did not exist. Through privatization, people got their own housing.

However, only a few can afford to maintain, let alone repair their hosing. As a result, the housing stock started falling into a state of disrepair. As we could see, this resulted in roofs caving in and water supply not working properly.

Many people in Russia still believe in the soviet idea that someone else is always responsible. Home owners still do not realize that they need to put money aside and repair their homes.

Using the Finnish model in the housing sector could be an excellent idea

Nadezhda Kosareva believes that it would be sensible to follow Finland’s example and create housing cooperatives in Russia. Doing that will help reduce the cost of buying housing.

“The government should support this initiative, provide free land plots and give assistance with establishing joint-stock companies”, Kosareva thinks.

Kosareva points to the fact that housing market is a relatively new phenomenon in Russia. Also, the mortgage lending system has only been in existence in this country for just over ten years.

Not everyone wants to leave their homes

In Russia, millions of people know that their living conditions will not improve in the nearest future. Humans have this amazing ability to adapt, so residents get used to their derelict homes falling apart. Hundreds of people live in the building where the roof fell in. Outside, there is always hustle and bustle, you can always find someone to play with. Children love it here.

“We do not want to move, we have got used to this all”, they are saying.

Yle maailmalla: Moskova 22.12.2015