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Tatiana Moskalkova: respect for the views of others is the contribution to the achievement of civil peace

14 July 2017
Tatiana Moskalkova: respect for the views of others is the contribution to the achievement of civil peace

— Tatiana Nikolaevna, what problems do people bring to you as the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, what do our citizens most often complain about?

— In 2016, we received 42,549 applications, 3,400 of them were collective ones. This is half as much as in 2015. Statistics indicate that last year most people were concerned about the issues of criminal procedure legislation — 13,366 appeals were received, and the legislation in the sphere of housing and communal services — 7,183 appeals.

— This is the second key topic of our magazine…

— Actually, this is not surprising. After all, housing and communal services historically play a special role in our country, which is reflected even in children’s fairy-tales — remember "Teremok" (little wooden house) or "The Cat’s House", not to mention the works of Bulgakov. This topic has a lifelong topicality and, as a rule, for Russians it is associated with a persistent headache.

— But what causes these headaches, if it comes to housing and communal services?

— Most often, complaints concern the problems of dilapidated and emergency housing, deterioration of communal infrastructure, rise in tariffs for housing and communal services, non-transparency of payments, inadequate management of apartment buildings and poor quality of services.

The problems of housing stock deterioration are especially acute. Today, 72 percent of Russians live in apartment buildings — this is more than two-thirds of the country’s population! The vast majority of these buildings were erected in the Soviet era. In these times, these are not the masterpieces of architecture, but in the period of mass construction (60s-70s of the last century), they made it possible to get the long-awaited "square meters" for millions of people. The famous "Khrushchevka buildings" were supposed to stand for a maximum of 50–70 years, but the "merry 90s" broke out and we had to give up the housing renovation programs for a long time In the meantime, not only the houses, but the whole housing and communal services systems were deteriorating.

It’s not surprising that from year to year we receive complaints about the relocation from emergency housing: in 2016 — 540, in 2015 — 361. Mostly, citizens complain about the lack of funding for the implementation of the resettlement program and the low quality of the housing being built — which is particularly disappointing. It turns out that people are moving from one wreck to another. As one complainant indignantly remarked at the personal reception, "On paper, relocation to a new building is enshrined, and in fact it is a mockery".

— How do you work with concrete appeals in practice?

— For example, we received a complaint from a resident of the town of Rzhev, Tver region in which she reported on the emergency condition of the apartment house and the failure of local self-government to take measures to create safe living conditions for the tenants of this house and to include it in the resettlement program.

In the course of joint verification with the supervisory authorities, the arguments of the tenants were confirmed. The State Housing Inspectorate of the Tver Region concluded that the technical state of the house did not meet the requirements of legislation and required inspection. However, the city administration did not comply with the order. Only after the High Commissioner had appealed to the Rzhevsk Interdistrict Prosecutor’s Office, and the Procurator had taken countermeasures, the house was examined by an interdepartmental commission, recognized as substandard and subject to demolition. Residents had a hope for relocation to a comfortable apartment. Another typical case occurred in the Moscow Region. The residents of the city of Ozery complained to the High Commissioner about the unsatisfactory technical condition of the living quarters in the newly built house.

In the course of the joint check with law enforcement agencies, numerous violations were discovered during the construction and property delivery of a new building. At the same time, the administration of the urban settlement of Ozery did not take measures to ensure the safety of citizens living in the house. No tender was held to choose the property management company, moreover, the house was not prepared for winter. Only after the procurator’s office had taken the appropriate measures citizens were relocated to comfortable apartments.

It is worth noting that such appeals are received constantly, including during the live programme "Human Rights". There are a lot of problems in our housing and utilities infrastructure, and they need to be resolved immediately. The decent life of hundreds of thousands of our citizens, and hence the social health of society as a whole depends on how effectively we can do this. The Institution of the High Commissioner does everything possible, but it is not omnipotent. Such problems can be solved only by all the state institutions interested in stable and prosperous Russia.

— Another serious resonant problem has suddenly become the renovation program proposed by the Moscow Government. In your opinion, why has such a wonderful idea received so much criticism?

— It had long been clear that five-story buildings are obsolete. In due time these unprepossessing panel houses helped many relocate from the threadbare communal apartments. "The process of the resettlement of Muscovites from communal hives into separate nests" (this is how the main character of the film "The Pokrovsky Gate" carefully formulated the state of affairs) was a real social revolution. Squat houses with low ceilings, combination bathrooms, narrow kitchens and tiny corridors, thin walls, with no elevators and utility rooms — they were uncomfortable but cheap, and therefore sprouted like mushrooms after the summer rains forming huge city blocks. The shortcomings of the apartments, as a rule, were ignored, for the inhabitants of barracks, damp cellars and overpopulated communal apartments were more than happy to be relocated to a separate housing. And despite the fact that the residents of the monumental houses of the "Stalin’s epoch" scornfully called the new houses "khruschoby" (the combination of the words "Khrushchev" and "truschoba" (slum)), the new settlers were still exhilarated — the most important thing for them was that the apartment were separate. They had their own flats! It was thanks to the "Khrushchevka buildings" that by the end of the 1950s the USSR took the first place in the world in terms of housing construction rate, and Cheryomushki became the first district of Moscow formed by the first panel buildings of that era.

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