1.8. Current and upcoming changes and challenges

The going on changes last years are diverse and not always positive. Most encouraging changes are:
  • adoption by some dozens of cities land use and development regulation codes (zoning ordinances) or very similar documents with the aim to lessen bureaucratic arbitrariness;
  • distinctive for many large cities growth of construction activity in housing and commercial sectors;
  • going on improvement of architectural and technical diversity of buildings and constructions;
  • initial development of mortgage credits;
  • initial stirring up of the public participation and legal proceedings on urban development issues.
Meantime current trends are fraught with crucial problems. Deterioration speed of public utilities and housing stock keep ahead of pace of their modernization. Only in Moscow the land prices are high enough to resettle inhabitants by blocks, to demolish prefabricated hosing built in 1960s and to develop vacant lots. Even in Saint-Petersburg, not to say of other cities and settlements, such a method is too unprofitable. There are attempts to find methods of partial modernization capable to repay investments but not yet successive. One may foresee that demolition will start when dwelling of the prefabricated stock housing of 1960s will be recognized as absolutely discomfort or even dangerous.

The low activity of apartments owners to form co-owners associations prevents to introduce competitive market into housing maintenance business and therefore to improve quality of service. The most part of condominiums are represented by houses built at last decade. In urban development activity, as well as in other spheres, the actions of executive bodies are not transparent enough not to suspect deliberate procrastinations regarding different approvals, permit procedures, and consequent corruption.

Not very evident nowadays but quite possible problems must follow to housing degradation and ethnic changes, introduced by immigration to large cities. Till the last time obvious segregation is not typical (save some luxurious gated communities in best suburbs), but there are enough presupposition to expect its expansion. Quite possible, that housing blocks built in 1960s - 70s will be populated by low-income groups, including some ethnic ones. Then Russia will face the challenge, typical for many western countries some decades ago.

The adoption of the last Urban Development Code was accompanied by adoption of some other legislative acts ("Housing package"), aimed to encourage housing development and maintenance activity. New Housing Code (March 2005) definitely determined housing rights of families with moderate incomes. This Code established that since March 2006 municipalities may appoint companies, responsible for maintenance of houses in cases, the capable inhabitants have not done it themselves in a due way (after establishing joint ownership of condominium). There are adopted some legal acts to encourage housing hypothec: establishment of agencies capable to redeem credit obligations, eviction rights of cities and creditors, possibility to lessen selling tax for housing transactions. At the same time under consideration of authorities is possibility of legal changes directed to adjust to market situation some housing expenditures: as real property tax, land tax and rent (now land payments for housing are extremely low, even for owners of 300sq.m. apartments at best locations). Efficacy of tools applied to regulate tariffs of local monopolies, providing urban utilities, are under discussion. (http://info.risp.ru/reviews/?id=7051 )