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Monday, 24 July 2017 01:00cat

Renovation of residential quarters in Moscow has been underway, thousands of Soviet-era 5-storey buildings to be demolished

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The Russian Duma recently approved the bill (in its final form) concerning Moscow’s residential face-lift. Up to 7,900 aging apartment blocks (a full 10% of the city’s housing) is set to be torn down and replaced with high-rise apartments. Most of them are the so-called “Khrushchevka” flats (after the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev), prefabricated five-story buildings, built during the Soviet housing boom of the 1950s and 1960s. These are apartments with thin walls, low ceilings and generally poor architectural design. The project, which is considered one of the largest urban resettlement programs in history as 1.6 million people will be resettled, is estimated to cost around 300 billion rubles ($5.3 billion) over three years. However, officials project the longer-term cost of relocating and rehousing the residents over 20 years will be at least $53 billion.

Last May, the city published a list of 4,500 apartment buildings that will be torn down, the first phase of the renovation.However, many residents fear that the government will build huge (and expensive) housing towers rather than comfortable neighborhoods, and resettle them far away from their districts and families. “They are forcing people out, like under Stalin,” said activist Lena Bogushch. Others believe that the plan only serves the interests of the construction lobby. “The argument that they are in bad condition structurally is not convincing, especially since there are massive projects to reconstruct Khrushchyovka buildings in Eastern Europe,” says Nikolai Yerofeyev, a philosophy student at Oxford who is writing his dissertation on postwar Soviet housing. “There are many methods of how to deal with (ageing prefabricated housing), and of course tearing it down and building a new tower is not the best one.”, he adds. However, the renovation process is not obligatory. According to Moscow’s Mayor Sobyanin, the plan will be carried out in a democratic manner: If two-thirds of the residents of an apartment block don't want to be relocated to new housing, they will not be included in the renovation program. "There is no desire to drag anyone into this program by force," he said. "Everything is voluntary -- if the residents want it, we include their building, if they do not want it, we don't include it." 

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