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End of an era for Soviet housing: A government project to clear Moscow of Khrushchev-era apartment blocks has pros and cons for city residents - Moscow News - themoscownews.com - 12.11.11 - JRL 2011-223-32

If a government project goes to plan, Moscow will have 400 fewer Khrushchev-era apartment blocks by the end of 2012.

The project to clear the city of the crumbling post-war housing units began in earnest this year, with the clearing of some 45 apartment blocks, but will get into full swing in 2012.

For most residents of the city the demolition project is long overdue. Comparable in their comedy value to Soviet-era Lada cars, the cramped, low-ceilinged apartments are some of the least desirable places to live in the city.

They were erected in a houseconstruction boom between 1959 and 1985, launched to compensate for the destruction of housing during the war and increasing migration of village dwellers to big cities.

Many were initially only constructed as temporary housing, but remain standing (albeit only just), despite the fact that they have poor sound-proofing, and often no balconies or elevators. Some are so bad that they have colloquially come to be known as khrushchebi, similar to trushchebi, the Russian word for slum.

Residents relocated

However, many residents of the ill-fated apartment blocks are less than happy about the prospect of being booted out next year.

"My house is not very nice but it's almost in the city center and very close to the metro, so I don't want to move out," said Olga Dmitrienko, a school teacher who lives in a five-storey khrushevka near Ulitsa 1905 Goda, a metro station just outside the central ring.

"Even if I move somewhere within the district, it might still be much further away from the centre and I really don't want to spend more than 15 minutes travelling to the school," she added.

The city authorities say they will ensure all cleared residents are provided with housing of equal quality within one administrative district from their former apartment.

"Citizens can be moved to other districts if they wish. They can also be moved if their house is under threat of collapse," said Vladislav Ivanov, who leads the resettlement program at the Moscow Department of Housing Policy. "All controversial cases on resettlement can be resolved at the court."

The city authorities are also giving residents a chance to opt for renovation instead of demolition, but such a decision has to be agreed to by the majority of residents in an apartment block.

Dangerous living

Moscow City Hall says some 2,800 houses in the city center are in dangerous condition for living.

At a meeting this week with regional members of the United Russia party, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described the demolition of old housing as one of the government's main priorities.

"We have to move people out of the houses that are under threat of collapse by law, but since there are so many old housing blocks, we need to set up a whole program for solving this problem," Putin was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

Earlier this fall Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told the Vesti FM radio station that the demolition program would take longer than initially expected due to a lack of funding.

The demolition work and construction of housing or stateowned facilities on same land is coming entirely from the city budget, rather than private investors, he added.

So far only 45 of a planned 90 khruschevkas have been pulled down and around 470 buildings deemed unfit for living in are still standing.

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