Russian cities have been substantially influenced by the legacy of the Soviet centrally planned economy. Monotonous concrete-slab developments in residential areas with inadequate access to social infrastructure, along with dilapidated and obsolete individual residential developments, and abandoned industrial areas, create a typical scene of the middle zone of an urban settlement. Post-Soviet development of housing market and residential construction market, regrettably, worsened the problem of substandard urban environment. Acute housing needs and high housing demand caused the emergence of homogeneous prefabricated high-rise buildings in urban peripheries.
As a result, Russian cities currently feel the utmost need both for improving the affordability of housing and upgrading the quality and enhancing the beautification of the urban environment, developing vibrant public spaces, expanding the diversity of forms of housing tenure for different categories of citizens, assuring transportation links between urban areas, providing easy access to social infrastructure, and increasing the opportunities of urban dwellers for leisure and public activities. Multi-functional nature of built-up areas, a safe and comfort environment for children and adolescents, an accessible environment for disabled persons, and, finally, spatial harmony and urban aesthetics that ensures a visually attractive ‘cityscape’ are also essential elements of a modern standard of the urban environment which is more and more appreciated by citizens.
By now, the basic legal framework regarding housing and urban planning sectors has been developed in Russia, and the main goals and objectives of housing and urban planning policies have been identified. The goals and objectives seek to solve the above-mentioned problems. Yet, in the absence of effective instruments, real changes may be hardly implemented in practice.
Relevant experience gained by developed countries shows the interrelation between the instruments of housing and urban planning policies which enables the effective attainment of the goals set in respect of each of the foregoing policies. More importantly, urban planning instruments make it possible to reach the goals of the housing policy.
This paper reviews the current state of housing and urban planning policies in Russia, the practice of reconciling the goals, objectives and instruments of the foregoing policies, and sets forth the proposals on how to streamline housing and urban planning policies with a view to improving the affordability of housing and upgrading the quality of urban environment.
Comprising certain elements of an academic research the report is generally presented as a paper focusing on policy discussions and debates which determined its structure. In order to provide wider context of the current trends in housing and urban planning spheres for a foreign reader, Section 1 explores the current state of the housing sector in Russia which determines key priorities of housing and urban planning policies. Section 2 provides a glance into the issues of the interrelation between housing and urban planning policies, as this pertains to goal setting and implementation procedures, with due account for relevant international practices. Section 3 describes housing and urban planning policies both at federal and local levels. Section 4 provides case studies of inconsistencies in implementation of housing and urban planning policies in Russian cities which impede the attainment of the goals. Section 5 sets forth the proposals on how to streamline the goals and objectives of the current housing and urban planning policies and to carry out the regional differentiation in respect of the policies.