The city of Moscow will undergo a major facelift under a plan by mayor Sergei Sobyanin to modernise the housing accommodations of at least 1.6 million people.
According to Sobyanin’s plan, Moscow will tear down 8,000 Soviet-era pre-fabricated housing blocks which have outlived their usefulness.
The five-storey housing blocks, known in Russia as Khrushchyovkas and named after Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev, were built during the 1950s and 70s to satisfy a shortage of housing in Soviet cities after the second world war.
Moscow in the 1950s had a population of 5 million but had housing available for 2 million people. The housing shortage was exacerbated by rising urbanism and an exodus of residents from the provinces to the country’s urban centres.
By 1960, nearly 50 percent of Russians lived in cities.
The answer to the Soviet Union’s housing shortage came from architect Nathan Osterman.
From 1956 to 1957 he built outside Moscow what would be coined mikrorayony, or micro-districts, capable of housing tens of thousands of people.
The micro-districts would become a template reproduced throughout the Soviet Union.
Austere five-level and later 16-level housing blocks would be scattered as many as 200 metres from each other, linked by amenities and a metro station.
But today these buildings are long past their lifespan. They were not originally designed to last beyond 25 years.
“Many people in Moscow are still living uncomfortably in ancient housing, to put it mildly,” said Sobyanin.
An estimated 25 million square meters of housing, more than 10 percent of the city’s housing stock, will be razed under the modernisation plan.
This will be added to 1,700 soviet-era homes Moscow authorities already demolished in an earlier pilot revitalisation program.
The project is likely to strain Russia’s resources writes Maxim Trudolyubov, who says ageing micro-districts comprise an estimated 80 percent of urbanised areas.
What Sobyanin is offering to tear down and replace, he says, it took the Soviet economy 10 years at break-neck speed to build and only the city of Moscow has the resources to undergo a project of this magnitude.
“The project would take more than 10 years, probably decades, and would be incredibly costly,” Trudolyubov said. “The range that is quoted now is between 4 trillion rubles (€64 billion) and 6 trillion (€97 billion). At this very preliminary stage the figures are just abstractions and are probably too low.”
Sobyanin, however, has asked Moscow authorities to propose new sites for housing construction within the month.