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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Departments Wrangle Over Apartment Proposal

The Moscow housing department has sharply criticized a city government plan to buy apartments from elderly Muscovites for a fraction of their market value, calling the proposed purchase price too low, according to an internal government memo.

Under a decree drawn up by the Moscow social welfare department and approved last week by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the city may "buy" apartments from aged owners in exchange for modest pensions or social services and the right to live in the apartment until death.

Housing department officials blasted the plan in a memo provided to The Moscow Times by a member of a city commission on housing and realty issues, who asked not to be identified.

"The proposed levels of aid are small by comparison to the value of the apartments given to the city," the memo said.

Under the decree, the city would pay owners monthly stipends of around 100,000 rubles ($45), depending on the size of the apartment and the age of the owner, for apartments worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The memo called the determination of payments by age "amoral" and said that data on elderly Muscovites living alone to be provided to the program's administration under the decree could fall into criminal hands.

But the memo also had the earmarks of a volley in a turf war. Far from criticizing the principle of the city buying up apartments from the old, it said that such apartments should become the property of the housing department, not of a wing of the social welfare department as outlined in the decree.

Besides the Moscow government, there are about 10 firms offering such deals to elderly Muscovites, including a firm run by the Russian Orthodox Church called Hope and Salvation, which courts the faithful with slogans like "The Church guarantees protection for the lonely."