Staunton, March 8 – A third of Russia’s housing was built before 1970 and a significant portion of the rest was built before 1991. Much of it should be replaced, but because the amount of such housing is now growing so far, Moscow is doing what it normally does when things aren’t going the way it wants: it has stopped publishing data on this trend.
Until 2017, Rosstat published data on both housing in poor but salvageable condition and that which is uninhabitable according to sanitary norms; since then, it has posted data only on the latter, even though much of this category requires serious renovation to remain habitable (gks.ru/free_doc/doc_2017/year/year17.pdf).
That may allow the Kremlin to divert attention from the fact that ever more Russians, especially outside of Moscow, live in substandard housing. In some cities like Omsk and Perm more than 40 percent of the population live in housing that is dangerous for their health and well-being (realty.rbc.ru/news/58f0556e9a794783d29a427e).
But even the Kremlin can’t hide this situation from those who suffer and who know as did Soviet planners that housing must be replaced or subjected to major renovations at least every 25 years in order to remain safe. In a country where more than half of the housing is older than that and hasn’t been renovated, this is a crisis, albeit one that doesn’t get much attention.
Rosstat isn’t alone in understating the problem. According to an Accounting Chamber investigation late last year, local officials and companies routinely understate how old housing is and what conditions people are forced to live in (audit.gov.ru/en/news/realizatsiya-regionalnykh-programm-kapremonta-mnogokvartirnykh-domov-poka-sebya-ne-opravdala-sostoya).
Despite much talk among officials about the need to address this problem and even the passage of laws to help them, the reality is, one Russian journalist says, that residents of substandard and decaying housing can in fact now count only on themselves unless they are privileged residents of the capital (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-жилье-стремительно-ветшает).
If the situation isn’t changed soon – and specialists say that the government should be devoting five percent or more of the budget to this issue alone – Russia will suffer “a creeping catastrophe” where problems of housing will become problems of health which in turn will become problems of demography.
But so far, the Kremlin doesn’t appreciate these links enough to do anything about them.