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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Power to the Residents! The Condo

At 36 Pervaya Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ulitsa a quiet revolution is taking place.

There, the first private condominium has been legally signed into existence. Though residents all over Moscow have been privatizing their apartments for two years, the massive gray Stalin-era apartment house on Belorussky Vokzal Ploshchad is the first legally recognized alternative to state-controlled apartment complexes.

The privatization will give the approximately 200 residents legal control over the entire building -- not only their flats, but also the basement, attic, roof, and other non-residential spaces. With the new ownership come the responsibilities of administration, maintenance and repair.

"Running an apartment bloc is not a joke, but a very complicated and responsible task," said Galina Pokamestova, who is due to receive Licence No. 1 as the chairwoman of the first official condominium, which is named Tverskaya Zastava, or Tver Gates. "People who are going to take this responsibility need to know a lot about things like the plumbing network or where to buy light bulbs."

Under the old system, still in force in most apartment houses, upkeep is handled by an often inefficient maintenance administration that divides its service areas into neighborhoods of several hundred buildings. The maintenance administration, known by its Russian acronyms of REU or ZhEK, receives monthly payments from tenants and budget subsidies from the city, but residents have no way to control spending or demand better service.

"It is hard to predict what difference the new system will make," said Marina Korchagova, a resident of the building on Pervaya Tverskaya-Yamskaya since 1940. "One thing is clear: The current REU service could not be possibly worse."

Pokamestova said the newly formed condominium would contract a private company to service the 1936 building. Tverskaya Zastava's budget will consist of the same state subsidies as before, as well as monthly residents' dues, which will now be paid directly to the condo's bank account, once the city completes accounting changes and other paperwork connected with the condo's formation.

In addition, the condominium gains the right to claim up to 47.5 percent of the rent paid by shops and other businesses that occupy non-residential spaces in the building. By law, the private maintenance firms cannot charge more than was paid for state-supplied services under the old system.

The commercial enterprises under Tverskaya Zastava's roof include two food shops, and atop the roof stands a large GoldStar advertisement panel.

To train for her new job as condominium chairwoman, Pokamestova, a retired computer engineer, attended a special training course organized by the city government on housing maintenance and construction engineering and standards. Galina Teryokhina of the Municipal Dwelling Committee, which oversees the formation of condominiums in the city, said more than 180 future condominium presidents have already received diplomas.

It took the Moscow government more than two years to create the legal base necessary to begin registering condominiums, Teryokhina said, but more than 500 such residents' societies have been active in the capital since apartment privatization started in 1992. Most of these groups formed in centrally located buildings, where tenants-turned-proprietors feared compulsory moves due to reconstruction, she said. Three more buildings on Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ulitsa are lined up for registration as condominiums, which can be formed if over 50 percent of a building's residential space has been privatized and more than 51 percent of the residents vote in favor of the change.

At an August 1993 celebration of 1 million privatized flats, Mayor Yury Luzhkov presented gold keys to leaders in the still unofficial private housing movement. "I am convinced that the future belongs to condominiums, like elsewhere, in the West," Teryokhina said. "This way the money will go directly to its destination, skipping several bureaucratic levels where much of it gets lost."