Moscow’s Redevelopment Plans run into Opposition

Moscow has started an ambitious project of making its buildings more modern and more European-like. The scheme entails demolishing 8,000 apartment buildings dating from the Soviet era. These buildings are at present privately owned. The plan is to destroy these buildings for premium residential development.

Displaced citizens

This massive redevelopment of the city will uproot approximately 1.6 million Muscovites. The total cost would be a whopping $61 billion. It follows that thousands of people protested against this move on May 14. Sergei Sobyanin, the Moscow mayor, was conspicuous by his absence. However, one person did attend the gathering, Aleksei Navalny. The latter is the founder of Anti-Corruption Foundation. Police took away Navalny by force before he could speak. 

The problem is that there are many Muscovites who do not want to move. As per the law, owners of apartments in such buildings will be provided “analogous” flats in either adjacent or same. The list of big questions remain: does adjacent mean the new district will be like the old neighborhood? What is the distance from the home to the subway? Distance from home to school is another important factor.

Improved quality of life

If Mayor Sobyanin's words are to be believed, the goal of such a redevelopment is to improve ordinary people's lives. This kind of program is nothing new. The present builds upon Moscow's resettlement program that first started in 1999. If his schemes are made into law, about 25 million square meters will be refreshed. Old housing will be demolished. The city authorities claim that the displaced Muscovites will enjoy modern housing instead of the dilapidated and crumbling “khrushchyovka”. These are the existing five-story apartment buildings constructed during the 1950s and 1960s- when Nikita Khruschev was the President of the then Soviet Union. The budget of such a large scale construction is expected to be $3.2 billion for the 2017 period. Part of the funds will come from “fees” paid by developers.

Most residents whose buildings are yet to be razed became legal owners of their apartments during privatization reforms which happened during the earlier part of the 1990s. A considerable number of them are of old age. A few have poor mobility and low income too. Not all buildings are in a bad condition that they need to be broken down. A few need only renovation and not demolition. A few were constructed during Stalin era. A few buildings existed prior to the 1917 revolution.

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