Liudmila Alekseeva & Boris Altshuler: An Open Letter to the President - "Why do children have nowhere to live in the largest country in the world?"

posted 26 Apr 2015, 07:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Apr 2015, 08:03 ]
Photo of Liudmila Alekseeva: Wikipedia
Photo of Boris Altshuler: Deutsche Welle

To the President of the Russian Federation, V. V. Putin 

No. 31/15, 14 April 2015

Open Letter

Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,

The Moscow Helsinki Group receives desperate requests for help from families with children without accommodation and residential registration, or who are living under the threat of legal eviction from their only home. The Russian Constitution guarantees citizens the right to housing and basic social rights, and it does not make the enjoyment of these rights conditional on having registration.

Laws under which the courts of Moscow and other regions pass judgements to evict a family with six children, another with four (and a fifth on the way), a woman with a child, and so on, ‘into the void’ are manifestly unconstitutional.

We request that you introduce amendments to legislation that would prohibit evictions without the provision of alternative accommodation and would also eliminate the anti-constitutional social discrimination to which those are subjected who do not have any registration, or as a result of feudal regional 'residency requirements'.

However, this is something for the future. Meanwhile, our fellow citizens still do not have a roof over their heads and are living in subhuman conditions of unacceptable overcrowding or emergency shelters. This is happening today, right now, and we must help them immediately. What is to be done? It is clear that such dire situations are a drop in the ocean of the huge housing problem in Russia, of which you will be well aware.

Clearly, given the housing shortage one must conclude by asking, what was the aim of your Decree No. 600 of 7 May, 2012, the key directives of which have not been implemented by the Government in the last three years? Thus, favourable conditions for attracting private investment to the areas of residential construction and the production of construction materials have not been created; mechanisms for the prevention of monopolistic activity and unfair competition in the said areas have not been developed; and a market for affordable rental housing for people on low incomes has not materialised.

The paradox is that Russia's housing problems can be solved in next to no time and with barely any funding, or even revenues for budgets. Modern technology allows us to build low-rise and mid-rise residential buildings in the space of months, or even weeks. Moreover in Russia, there are construction companies that do not chase big profits and are prepared to build for people on a large scale, at high quality, at speed and at low cost. Organisational mechanisms to encourage housing construction using this as yet untapped potential are currently being developed by the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the Human Rights Council) as part of collaborative work being done by the Council and the Working Group on the realisation of the right of citizens to affordable housing.

Yet the absurdity of it all is that this whole housing problem is unfolding against a backdrop of commercial construction on a massive scale that brings in big profits to narrow groups of monopolistic developers and the officials that 'protect' them. The mercenary motivations preventing your orders from being implemented are quite blatant.

We request that you give the order to develop a new housing policy in Russia that is founded on the proposals of the Human Rights Council, and in addition, to address the issue of the incompetence of First Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Kozak and Igor Shuvalov, who for many years have been responsible for the implementation of federal affordable housing programmes and have made a complete mess of them.

The principal age-old Russian disease is corruption, as a result of which children in the largest and most resource-rich country of the world have nowhere to live, whilst millions of parents every day are dealing with the problem of how they will feed their children tomorrow. The search for internal and external enemies working for the United States, the West, NGOs — foreign agents — is simply a way to divert attention from treating this disease whilst continuing to appropriate people's wealth with impunity. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to overcome corruption using top-level approaches alone, just as one cannot pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. One needs external bases of support, something that could be provided by Russia’s international obligations, as is the case for any other countries that participate in similar international agreements.

In 1975 the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was adopted, the 'third, humanitarian, basket’ of which formed the basis of a modern, more enduring and more humane world order.

We urge you and other world leaders to instigate the development of a new 'fourth basket' of international instruments to combat corruption and poverty, and guarantee social rights.

The adoption of such a raft of measures is necessary not only for Russia and its people, but for the citizens of many countries who are suffering as a result of the corruption, unaccountability and impunity of the bureaucracies that rule them.

Liudmila Alekseeva, Chair of the Moscow Helsinki group (MHG)

Boris Altshuler, member of the MHG; Chair of the Board 'Right of the Child’; Member of the Working Group on the right of citizens to affordable housing of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council and the Russian Ministry of Construction

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Translated by Lindsay Munford