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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Race Begins to Save Right to a Free Flat

With just over nine months remaining before Russians lose the right to privatize state-issued apartments, a legislative race has begun to extend the deadline or abolish it altogether.

More than 20 percent of eligible Russians have failed to exercise their right to privatizate their apartments despite having had two years to do so since the deadline was first announced in 2004, said Pavel Krasheninnikov, a United Russia deputy and the chairman of the State Duma's Legislation Committee.

Krasheninnikov, the author of a bill regulating the privatization of dacha plots that passed its first reading in the Duma on Friday, announced last week that he would tack on an amendment extending the deadline for the privatization of free apartments before the second reading. Another bill tackling the privatization deadline, set for Jan. 1, 2007, is scheduled for a first reading on April 21.

The deadline must be extended because local authorities had failed to prepare for the crowds of people trying to privatize their apartments before the cutoff date, Krasheninnikov said.

The previous Housing Code, from 1983, allowed anyone seeking improved housing conditions to join a waiting list for a free apartment and receive one after several years. Free privatization of state-issued apartments was made available to Russian citizens in 1991. The new Housing Code, effective since March 2005, states that only the needy are to be placed on the waiting list, and the apartments they receive are not to be privatized but only rented from the state at nonmarket rates.

Krasheninnikov intends to bundle his privatization deadline extension proposal together with his dacha bill in order to speed up the extension, the deputy said.

Independent deputy Galina Khovanskaya's alternate bill would do away with privatization time limits altogether. The bill, which proposes amending the Housing Code and the Civil Code, was this month approved for a first reading by the Duma.

Khovanskaya, a vocal critic of the Housing Code at the time of its passing, said her bill aimed to patch up problems she had originally warned against.

Extending the privatization deadline would once again create a rush when the next deadline approached, as well as slight those who had been on waiting lists since the 1980s and counting on an apartment eligible for privatization since 1991, she said.

In addition, the deadline for deprivatization, or returning an apartment to the state and renting it back, also set for Jan. 1, 2007, will become an issue once people realize that building repairs and renovations are costly, Khovanskaya said.

Under the old code, the state was responsible for such repairs and renovations, but the new code shifted the burden to apartment owners. Khovanskaya said people who found themselves unable to meet the expenses of property taxes, insurance and renovations should be able to go back to renting from the state at discounted rates.

Also, she said the state should compensate those whose apartments lost value because scheduled repairs and renovations were not performed when the state was responsible for them.