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Military Housing

The housing problem is, beyond doubt, a key element of the servicemen's social security package. As of 2003 some 160,000 armed forces officers alone needed housing or improved housing conditions. As of 2008 122,000 military officers and their families were in line for apartments that the state is required to provide for them.

The construction of military quarters began during the reign of Emperor Pavel I (prior to this time, troops were accommodated in regimental settlements or billeted); the construction of quarters continued throughout the 19th and the early 20th centuries. Normally, quarters were designed to a standard plan for each regiment. The complex of military quarters included residential buildings (usually two or three-storied buildings per battalion, every building had one common room for each military company, separate rooms for non-commissioned officers and servicemen), an officers' house, hospital, headquarters' building (as of mid-19th century it was usually combined with the officers' assembly), stables, bath-house, bakery, storehouses etc. Next to the quarters a regimental church and drill square were situated.

In the Soviet era, all land and most buildings belonged to the state; in rural areas, private home ownership was permitted, but the law limited such houses to a floor space of forty square meters. The occupants of state-owned housing enjoyed the rights to lifetime occupancy and to bequeath their housing units to the next generation, as well as virtually complete protection against eviction. Rental rates remained at the same extremely low, universal level -- 0.132 ruble per square meter -- from 1927 until 1992. Maintenance of existing buildings and construction of new housing were both financed from other parts of the state budget; only 3 percent of funds used for these purposes came from residents. State enterprises covered a significant share of housing expenses as part of their employees' benefits. The design and construction of new housing had no relation to aesthetics or even to cost; in cities the State Construction Committee (Gosstroy) simply erected monolithic high-rise buildings containing a given number of housing units, following the dictates of the five-year plan for that locality. In 1990 nearly 100 percent of the housing stock in Moscow and St. Petersburg was publicly owned, and more than one-quarter of Russia's total housing stock had been built before 1917.

During the Soviet period social position played a significant role in the allocation of living space. The perennial shortage of urban housing meant that insufficient individual apartments existed for those who desired them. Income played only a small role in housing distribution because the state owned most of the housing and charged artificially low rents. (A small number of cooperative apartments were sold, but these were beyond the means of most people.) The elite received the most spacious and best-quality housing, often as a job benefit. The elite also possessed more influential friends who could help them bypass the usually long waiting periods for apartments. The average family, in contrast, either shared an apartment with other families, using the bathroom and kitchen as common areas, or lived in a very small private apartment. A 1980 article in a prestigious Soviet journal on economics stated that about 20 percent of all urban families (53 percent in Leningrad) lived in shared apartments, although for the country as a whole this percentage was decreasing in the late 1980s.

The housing situation for young unmarried, and often unskilled, workers was worse. They often could find living space only in a crowded hostel operated by the enterprise in which they worked or in the corner of a room in a shared apartment. Until they could find their own apartment, young married people often lived with one set of parents. Housing in rural areas was more spacious than that found in urban apartments, but it usually had few amenities. Although rural housing sometimes lacked indoor plumbing and other features of urban housing, it was roomier.

Always in short supply in the Soviet era, housing continued to be at a premium in the 1990s. However, the old, state-controlled system has begun giving way to private enterprise and a rudimentary housing market. Despite severe inequalities in housing opportunity and daunting financial disadvantages, many Russians have been able to establish private homes that would have been beyond their reach under the Soviet system. Nevertheless, in 1996 housing subsidies remained a significant drain on the national budget as the state continued the attempt to protect citizens from the inequities of a nascent housing market.

The government on 15 January 1998 approved a five-year, 25 billion ruble ($4.2 billion) program intended to provide housing for some 210,000 families of retired military personnel, Russian news agencies reported. The program covered 160,000 families of soldiers who had already left the armed forces and 50,000 families of those who will be retired during upcoming military reforms. Families receive housing certificates to cover 80 percent of the cost of apartments. They had the right to take out low-interest bank loans to cover the remainder of the cost.

In 2003 a thematic audit was conducted by the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation on the use of federal budget funds allocated for construction and purchase of housing for military men of the RF Defense Ministry and for the persons dismissed from the Armed Forces. The purpose of the audit is to assess efficiency of using public funds allocated for provision of housing to the officers of the RF Defense Ministry, those dismissed from the military service or sent to the reserve as well as their family members.

Major reasons that did not allow to put an end to the growing number of officers without place to live and reduce considerably the number of those dismissed from the military service and having no place to live were as follows:

  • insufficient funding of housing construction for officers of the RF Defense Ministry and purchasing for them housing facilities for federal budget funds;
  • incomplete implementation of the federal target program "Government Housing Certificates" and establishment of imperfect procedures for implementation thereof;
  • considerable reduction of the share of funds allocated for provision of housing to the officers for the business-like proceeds earned by the RF Defense Ministry;
  • violations and drawbacks in disbursement of public funds allocated for the construction and purchase of housing facilities to officers;
  • lack of efficiency in using the housing facilities assigned to the RF Defense Ministry.

By 2005 the system regulating the provision of housing facilities to military personnel requires a profound change. Primarily, because it fails to put together a stable service housing stock. Moreover, its inefficiency brings about shrinkage of the stock already on hand. Due to limited resources of the federal budget, it currently takes a retired serviceman about 6-7 years (instead of the statutory 3 months) to vacate his temporarily occupied official accommodation facilities and move to a permanent housing space he is entitled to by law. At present, the Defense Ministry's housing stock numbered 98,000 apartments. However, there are about 70,000 families waiting for relocation in cantonments. In all, to resolve the housing shortage problem and make sure that every serviceman had a roof above his head as long as he stays in the ranks, the Armed Forces need as many as 450,000 official apartments.

The situation in this area cannot be radically improved within a year or two as the housing problems had been neglected for several decades. Another effort that is believed to help to resolve the notorious housing problem is a recently introduced mortgage system. It is expected to run in combination with the ongoing 2002/2010 State Housing Certificates program.

By 2012-2015 the state plans to do away with the housing shortages and guarantee allocation of service housing to military personnel within one month. To realize these plans, extensive housing development projects will be complemented with intensive efforts to transform barracks and other buildings vacated as a result of ongoing army reduction into suitable official accommodation facilities.

The said mortgage system is expected to bring the following social benefits: improved psychology and higher moral standards of servicemen's families and military communities; welfare-brought confidence for families; due remuneration for service members' duty and life risk; social balance; higher service status and prestige.

The presidential program to build housing for troops, known as 15 +15 provides housing for the military in five Russian regions - Moscow, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Leningrad and Kaliningrad. In 2006, its implementation has been allocated 15 billion rubles and as much again - in 2007, which gave the name of the entire project. Overall, the program 15 +15 will be put into operation 18 400 apartments, with 3,068 of them built by the Ministry of Defense of Russia, and 15,332 apartments built by other organizations. The company 211 th KZHBI managed to win a bidding competition to participate in the program 15 +15 in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region. By 2008 the program 15 +15 had been successfully implemented in all the selected regions.The Ministry of Defense of Russia offers even extend it to 2010, addresses the accelerated Newly apartment building for the military could become Rostov, Volgograd, Samara, Novosibirsk, Chita, Sverdlovsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Smolensk region, as well as the Seaside kray Odnako Khabarovsk region.

In early 2008 the Defense Ministry started auctioning off billions of dollars' worth of property to help fund the construction of much-needed housing for officers. The governmental prohibition on transactions involving federally-owned land would be waived since it does not apply to land owned by the military that it is in the process of vacating. The entire plan calls for 20 sites formerly used by the military to go on the block across the country during the year.

In 2008, the government intends to spend about 40 billion rubles on provision of housing for the military, announced Dmitry Medvedev, the president of Russia, on 19 August 2008, in Vladikavkaz during a meeting with servicemen, distinguished in fights in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone. "This year, about 40 billion rubles will be spent on solution of housing problems of the Armed Forces, including, naturally, the Navy. To let you understand, it is multiple more than five-seven years ago. At the moment, the number of commissioned housing has substantially increased," the Kremlin press office quotes Medvedev as saying.

Medvedev acknowledged that growing price for housing is objective reality. "But even in spite of it, none of the programs, either the program for providing the military with official housing, either the program for providing the military servicemen with permanent residence or the program, related to improvement of the situation in the field of under-lease housing, - we intend not only to suspend, but vice versa, we intend to develop and will invest there more and more," promised the Russian president.

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Page last modified: 21-09-2016 20:01:54 ZULU