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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Resettlement Plans Come Under Fire

MTUnder St. Petersburg city government proposals, at least 56,000 communal households will be relocated by 2011.
ST. PETERSBURG -- As plans by St. Petersburg City Hall to resettle 80 percent of the residents of communal apartments by 2016 are approved by the legislative assembly, experts and communal apartment dwellers are skeptical the targets can be met.

Under the plan, at least 56,000 households will be relocated to new housing by 2011. Around 75.3 billion rubles ($3 billion) will be allocated from the city budget to that end, reported last week.

But "the most important factor for resettling communal apartment dwellers is not the financial factor but the human one," said Alexander Romanenko, president of the Russian Realtors Guild, who also heads Advecs real estate company.

The communal apartments that most interested developers have already been sold over the last 15 years, and their former residents have resettled, Romanenko said.

"Most of the apartments left are problematic to developers. Either because the residents have exaggerated demands [because residents of downtown apartments tend to expect large sums to buy them out] or their location [makes them unattractive]," Romanenko said.

Romanenko said the new law also contained positive elements, however. The task of drawing up the list of the residents to be resettled will now not lie exclusively with district administrations, but will also be handled by developers themselves, he said.

"I hope the collective efforts of business and the state will allow for the development of an efficient mechanism to influence" the process of improving people's living conditions, he said.

But for the operation to run smoothly, City Hall will need to pass additional legal reforms to further regulate the process of resettling the inhabitants of communal apartments, Romanenko said.

"If administrative resources are not used, the planned volumes and terms of the program will not be fulfilled," he said.

Romanenko said the efforts of city authorities to solve the problem, including committing to financial backing, were "extremely positive."

But those who have had to endure the experience of relocating are not so optimistic about the prospects for the city government's plans.

"The law is more interesting to developers than to residents," said Larisa Galushko, who recently moved out of a communal apartment.

Galushko said it took her family of seven many years to resettle. "We had a number of different investors coming to us with different offers for resettlement but most of them were completely inappropriate, and I see many investors as not being honest," she said.

The Galushko family, who were previously registered at a single 24-square-meter room in a communal apartment in the city center, received offers to move to the suburbs or to a central apartment located one story above a flooded cellar.

"In the end, the developers offered us a more decent choice in the center, but then they never fulfilled their promise to pay for the move," she said.