Young Russians' housing problems

28/ 04/ 2006

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti political commentator Yuri Filippov) -- Where to live
is one of the key problems facing nearly all young Russians. Having your own
flat is a ticket to marrying and having a family, finding a place in society
and looking confidently into the future.

Russia is a cold country with severe winters where living in a banana
bungalow or cardboard hut would be more like dying. A house in Russia should
have thick walls and reliable heating, water supply and sewage systems.
Young people in the countryside prefer to build their houses themselves,
which is out of the question for the majority of Russians who live in
cities.

Energetic young people do their best to find a way out. In the past 30-odd
years, youth housing cooperatives have built tens of thousands of
well-appointed residential blocks across the country. But they have not
solved the housing problem of the young.

President Vladimir Putin said state funds should be used to provide housing
to everyone who needs it. He put the construction of comfortable and
affordable housing on the list of national priority projects, which the
state, business, political parties and public organizations are working to
fulfill.

According to relatively high UN and UNESCO standards, there should be at
least 30 square meters per person in a flat or house, and every household
should have individual premises of a traditional type. Under international
standards, every family member should have a room to himself or herself,
with two common rooms.

Russia hopes to attain these standards soon. There were slightly more than
19 square meters per person in Russia at the beginning of this century, but
about 60% of urban dwellers had one- and two-room flats with 1.3 persons per
room.

More than 70% of families live in separate flats in Russia, but 21% of
households in St. Petersburg and 3% in Moscow sill live in flats shared by
several families.

The housing market, which appeared in Russia at the beginning of
privatization in the early 1990s, has created conditions for solving the
housing problem. Nearly 18% of young people said in a poll they had no
housing problems. But the other 80% have this problem and it is acute for
25%.

Banking credits are too expensive for the majority of those who want to have
a better or bigger flat, which is why the mortgage system, which was created
in Russia only several years ago, has not yet created a housing boom.

At the same time, the Russian middle class, which is swelling with
university graduates, cannot buy new flats easily. This concerns even quite
mature people, because prices are too steep in Russia. Flats in Moscow are
on sale at more than $3,000 per square meter, and experts say this is not
the limit. A young couple will have to spend their combined income for 10-12
years to buy a standard two-room flat on the market.

But young Russians do not lose hope. They welcomed the president's projects
of affordable and comfortable housing, because only 3.2% of young people in
this country expect to solve their housing problems without the assistance
of the state. But the majority need the advantages of public-private
partnership.

Sociological polls have revealed an interesting trend. The housing problem
is not as acute for big families where three or four generations share the
same flat, as for European-type families of Mom, Dad and one or two kids.
Though the situation is objectively worse in big families, they are probably
more concerned with getting enough food and clothes. Or maybe they live by
"the more the merrier" principle. In the past, Russian log houses had only
one room for the whole family, including kids and old folks.

Researchers say that the growth of the consumer demand will make the housing
issue important to nearly everyone in Russia. Some will want to live
separately from parents and others to have a bigger flat. This is where the
proactive national project of building comfortable and affordable housing
steps in. Russia has already started building housing for the future.