Boris Altshuler: An Open Letter to Galina Khovanskaya on the proposed demolition of Khrushchev-era housing in Moscow

posted 15 May 2017, 04:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 May 2017, 04:21 ]
30 April 2017

Source: Boris Altshuler, 'Moscow. "Renovation". And onwards. An Open Letter to Galina Khovanskaya,' Moscow Helsinki Group


To the chair of the Committee on Housing Policy and Communal Housing of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation G. P. Khovanskaya

Esteemed Galina Petrovna,

Greetings for the upcoming holidays! [May Day and Victory Day - trans.]

And I express sincere gratitude for your opposition to the ‘holiday of personal enrichment’ of well-known narrow circles for whose sake the essentially criminal programme ‘Renovation’ has been arranged.

Why criminal?

Because ‘Renovation’, as you have correctly pointed out, means a growth in the city’s population of between 3 – 5 million people that will be devastating to the capital.
And because its authors, beginning with S. S. Sobyanin, altogether cynically threw overboard from the programme hundreds of thousands of Muscovites with appalling housing problems (2 families with multiple children in one room in a communal apartment—for 10 consecutive years; 3 families with multiple children in a one-room apartment—for 27 consecutive years, etc.). Not one of the problems raised by the ‘ordinary folk of Moscow’, who went on hunger strike last summer, are being solved.

The deeper reasons for this poverty are monopolism and corruption, corruption and monopolism, which is very precisely reflected in the recent (25 April 2017) interview of our colleague V. V. Tishkov (‘The Collapse of the Affordable Housing Programme’), and in the most general sense – in the utterly despairing statement of I. Yu. Artemev to the board of directors of FAS [Federal Anti-Monopoly Service] of 1 March of this year (‘Cartels are Suffocating the Russian Economy’.

But these are general considerations. The specific reason for writing this letter is the request of like-minded people from the Russian Union of Builders, including RUB executive director V. N. Sakhno, to share with you the innovative idea of building on to dilapidated and/or dangerous buildings instead of razing them—please see the attachment. The construction technology that would allow one to avoid demolishing buildings and resettling occupants is at the same time substantially more economical than that proposed by the ‘Renovation’ programme. And it is an altogether practicable alternative that is attractive to people and would avoid the horrible dilemma which S. S. Sobyanin is putting before Muscovites.

The economical nature of such a programme would also allow one to put into commission enough living space at an affordable rent, which would become for Muscovites a ‘housing lifebuoy’, and would enable, finally, the fulfillment in Moscow of the Decree No. 600 of the Russian Federation President of 7 May 2012 ‘to ensure the formation of an affordable housing market and the development of a noncommercial housing fund for low-income citizens by January 2013’.

Esteemed Galina Petrovna, we are not specialists on the legislative process, but we do not rule out the possibility that the proposal to include building on to existing housing stock, as opposed to its demolition, in the second reading of the bill on the Moscow ‘Renovation’ programme will put a stop to that madness which is the programme in its present form.

Yours sincerely,

Boris L’vovich Artshuler

Chair of the board of the regional NGO ‘Rights of the Child’
Member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, 
Member of the Public Council of the Ministry of Construction and Communal Housing of the Russian Federation (Minstry of Construction), 
Member of the Working Group on the Realization of Citizens’ Affordable Housing Rights of the Russian Federation President’s Council on the Development of Civic Society and Human Rights and of the Ministry of Construction. 

Attachment: Report/document of the company Shelfstroi on the application in Moscow of the project “Building on to existing housing stock as a means of reconstruction.” [Read more in Russian]

Translated by Mark Nuckolds