Staunton, Dec. 8 – The single-family apartments built in Khrushchev’s time that have in many cases degenerated into slum-like conditions now look like palaces at least in terms of size as a combination of factors, including Russians’ distrust of banks and the government, has pushed down the size of entry-level apartments to 17 square meters or less.
Indeed, Novyye izvestiya reports, some of the apartments now selling like hotcakes in Moscow are smaller than dog kennels or prison cells in many Western countries (/newizv.ru/article/general/08-12-2021/konura-dlya-novoy-zhizni-pochemu-mini-kvartiry-stanovyatsya-menshe-tyuremnoy-kamery).
The usual factors of supply and demand are at work, with ever more people wanting to move into Moscow and developers building apartments that they can afford. But both of these factors have been intensified by Russian conditions, and those who study public health are worried about the consequences.
On the one hand, because Russians don’t trust banks or the government, they want to buy apartments rather than rent them if at all possible lest they lose their money or the chance to earn interest on it if they keep their wealth in more liquid forms. And on the other, the Russian government does not impose the kind of zoning or other regulations most regimes do.
That means that developers can cut the size of apartments and charge more for their total in any one building despite the pressures that puts on infrastructure and on the physical and mental health of those who live in these micro-apartments. Indeed, banks pressure the developers to do just that in order to ensure that their loans to them are paid back.
One amenity most smaller apartments in Russian cities do not have is a balcony; and the lack of balconies, at a time of pandemic-driven lockdowns, has had a deleterious impact on public health physical and mental. As a result, many experts are pressing for the imposition of real limits on just how small apartments can become.
But powerful forces are working against their efforts, and new Muscovites in particular are likely to sacrifice their own well-being to get onto the first rung of the housing market in the capital – or worse, be willing or forced to remain in such tiny residencies for much or even all of their lives.