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IUE General Director Alexander Puzanov for French radio RFI about resettlement of dilapidated housing

Дата публикации: 18.04.2016

In Russia, "retired" houses collapse 

For many years residents of thousands of Russian multi-flat buildings have been trying to gain resettlement because of the state of buildings threatening their life and health. However, the majority of them do not manage even to force senior officials to recognize these houses to be unfit. And those who still have managed to do that, in many cases have been waiting for decades to be resettled.   

Officially, the proportion of unfit buildings in need of immediate resettlement in Russia is about 1 percent of the total housing stock. According to experts, this figure is lowered five times due to a shortage of funds. Management companies hold back on overhaul where it is needed and the public authorities hold back on resettlement of unfit housing.

In connection with this, multiple cases of collapse look quite natural. In particular, the day before a live call-in show with the President in Volgograd there crashed a part of the ceiling in building No. 3a of settlement Veselaya Balka. In the common kitchen there crashed a part of the ceiling right on a six-year-old girl’s head. The child was taken to hospital with dissection of the forehead and bruises of soft tissues of the head. A conclusion of an improper technical condition of the house was made by the State Housing Inspectorate yet in October, but nobody took any action. In the same city last year on December 1 in the building No. 3 on the Traktorostroitelei Street a fragment of the ceiling fell on a 61-year-old woman as a result of which she died.

On April 5 in Perevolotsk of the Orenburg region there crashed a part of a load-bearing wall of an old building No. 17 on the Lenina Street - fortunately no one was injured.

In Magnitogorsk of the Chelyabinsk region on March 30 there fell a balcony of the building which was accepted as dilapidated and unfit yet 10 years ago, but still was not resettled. A day before on Internet there appeared a video: a resident of an unfit building in the Metallurgicheskiy district of Chelyabinsk playing with a piece of plaster that has just collapsed promises the mayor of the city  big problems, if his wife and daughter suffer. The senior official yet six months ago made this family promise that they would be resettled, but the building that was recognized as unfit 12 years ago was still inhabited. In Biysk of the Altai Territory on April 5 there crashed the ceiling of the whole apartment in a building, the roof of which burnt yet in 2011. The Commission recognized the building needed reconstruction, but repair works were not made. In this case they escaped any victims and injured persons only by a miracle – they were all at work.

In the 1990s, when there began privatization of the housing stock in the country, the majority of it already needed repair works – the government was liable for that, but in fact it evaded the obligation shirking it on to new owners. And now they like an 80-year-old resident of Chelyabinsk Nadezhda Kovbasiuk, who lives in an old two-storeyed barracks, are left to their own devices and their own problems.

Nadezhda Kovbasiuk:  “When the first commission came, they looked and said that two houses, No. 38 and No.34 on the Omskaya Street, are unfit. But now the authorities do not recognize that, they say there is 36 percent of dilapidation. And it is a wooden house that was put into operation in 1955. The windows cannot be opened, they all fall out. The floor is breaking down, the corner is already going down. There are gaps. The pipes are all rusted. The toilet is breaking down. I cannot do repair works on my money. It is only a total of thirteen thousand, now fifteen already. So it is necessary to pay for the apartment almost six thousand. The rest is for food. I go nowhere, I do not ask anyone. Once I went and I was told that I have sons, let them do that. And what about sons? Thanks God, I gave birth to them, but I could never give birth to them. I am  a juvenile prisoner of concentration camps. Since 1942 we knocked about the camps ... And from the camp we were  driven home on a platform. Military people went on military trains, by cars, and we children were taken in a tent and then on a platform. They brought us from Germany to Vitebsk and left there and that is all. When we arrived our parents were immediately sent to our concentration camps. And that is all, they never returned from there”.

A resident of the Karelian town Suoyarvi Liudmila Repina since 1994 sought for the house she lived in to be unfit. She managed to do that only in 2007, when all the inhabitants ran away from there. The house has not been knocked down until the present moment and those who are registered there have not been provided any housing yet.

Liudmila Repina:  “The Blockaded Leningrad is nothing compared to what we had, how we lived. We covered the windows with a film, we put 10 layers of cardboard boxes on the floor because the  street is below, the street and cracks are aside. Senior officials came on each my complaint and started insulting and humiliating us in all possible ways. And my mother is a veteran of the war, though she is a worker on the home front, she went to work since she was 11. After one such visit she was taken by an ambulance machine with a heart attack and she could not walk”.

Liudmila and her mother, who stayed alone in a two-storeyed multi-flat building, were offered by the authorities to move into a building, which was previously occupied by a local alcohol addict. "It was a public toilet in the proper sense of the word" - says Liudmila.

Liudmila Repina:  “The ceilings were sagged, the walls were broken, the windows were filled in with plywood. In general, everything was rotten. It was such a horror, such humiliation. That’s beyond words what I felt. They resettle from this crap to the same crap. I wouldn’t even let pigs there. There was a public toilet in the full sense of the word. 80 percent of housing in the city is unfit. You know, these are houses, which were built  in the postwar period. The wooden two-storeyed ones. And even under social renting they charge people over for overhaul. They established such tariffs now, that's just awful! My friend lives in such a house. Their toilet is like a straight pipe  and the septic tank is directly under the house. And here it overfilled because they do not clean it, they do nothing, all of this came out of the tank and gathered under the floor, all this slush. You cannot come close to the house at all, there is such a smell! And almost the whole stock is like this. No roads, no heat, there is nothing. And the prices are terrible!”

Together with like-minded persons Liudmila Repina decided to address to Vladimir Putin by Internet with a proposal on resettlement of dilapidated unfit housing. They published a petition, which states that building of houses for resettled persons in the Karelian province is like making money fly.

Liudmila Repina:  “They now want to build houses in the settlements. In the settlements that become deserted, where there are no hospitals, no shops, no schools, no kindergartens. In general, there is no civilization. When you arrive there is a disruption, hunger we can say. It's the settlements of our district that I'm talking about. That’s awful: there are no roads at all. Because the wood cargo vessels day-and-night carry out timber from Karelia, soon there will be no forest at all - the only beauty that is there. So why do they build housing in the settlements, where there is nothing? Our senior officials know perfectly well, that everything is going to die there. So we sat and thought about it and decided to offer such an initiative to Putin. Why is money allocated for construction that is not effected, and the money may not even go here to Karelia or is it sawed and laid out in the pockets here? Just give people certificates and let people buy themselves what they want and where they want. As the military are given certificates – they go to any point in the country where they want and buy a house. And what sense is in building a house in the place where there is nothing?”

President Putin set the task to resettle by 2017 all the housing that was recognized to be unfit in 2012. However, this does not solve problem, thinks an expert in social and housing policy, regional and urban development, the General Director of the "Institute for Urban Economics" Alexander Puzanov.

Alexander Puzanov:  “Firstly, the unfit housing stock is reproduced, there appears a new one, and, secondly, the stock, which was recognized to be unfit as of 2012 was not the whole unfit housing. Because recognition of housing to be unfit is an administrative act, which entails obligations. The share of dilapidated housing is fixed everywhere, officially it is about one percent. In fact,  there are such assessments that about 40 percent of multi-flat buildings need overhaul nowadays, and not less than five percent need to be demolished immediately. This is my personal assessment”.

According to Alexander Puzanov in Russia there is allocated enough money for resettlement of unfit housing, but it is spent extremely inefficiently. Senior officials prefer to build up outskirts, which implies substantial additional expenditures on construction of infrastructure. Despite the fact that the urban population is not growing, this strategy can be considered as a delayed action mine. It would be more properly to place the stake on reconstruction of built-up areas. But now it is not profitable neither for the local authorities, nor for the developers.

Alexander Puzanov:  “It is a very complex process nowadays that developers are reluctant to do and the authorities do not really encourage them to do so. Because the governors are demanded to account for the figures of the quantities of commissioned square meters and, to a large extent. Square meters are easier to catch up with by building up suburban fields with huge high-rise buildings, without thinking about the long-term consequences. And that's why there appeared such a consensus on either side to detect from themselves the projects for reconstruction of built-up areas. The government could improve the legislation, make it easier to reach a consensus of all the right holders. This is the first thing. And the second is to change the motivation of local self-government authorities so as they to the contrary encourage developers by all means to perform reconstruction of built-up areas and not to develop suburban areas”.

A billion of square meters of housing in Russia needs to be repaired and yet there are repaired only 50-70 million of them. These figures were specified by President Putin during the live call-in show on April 14. And he added that preservation of such rates can bring to a disaster.