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The Russian housing movement at the end of 2006

A year ago, on the 1st January 2006, a new housing code came into operation in the Russian Federation. One year later, what is the current position on the right to housing and efforts to ensure that it is respected?

The context of the r eform

In the Soviet Union, charges on housing and public services were set at approximately 5 per cent of actual cost. In 1994, President Yeltsin introduced a reform that aimed to have 100% of the real cost paid by the population. Since then, prices in the housing sector have rocketed, which, in the absence of any compensating rise in household income, has put a serious strain on household budgets. If we add housing shortages, and especially the lack of social housing, plus the problem of deteriorating housing conditions, to these cost issues, we can understand why polls consistently identify housing problems as the population’s main concern (averaging over 70% of responses).

Housing reform is urgently needed, given the indebtedness of the municipal authorities in charge of managing housing and related infrastructure, the ageing of the housing stock and municipal infrastructure, growing maintenance problems and acute housing shortages. In the light of these problems, we must criticise the direction of the reform programmes adopted by the Russian government under the influence of ultra-liberal organizations, both in Russia (the Institute for Urban Problems, instigator of the new housing code, in particular) and internationally (particularly the World Bank and the WTO).

The government’s strategy can be summed up in three key terms: price liberalisation, privatisation and the market. Much the same pattern can be observed as was seen during the economic reforms of the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union: first conflict, and then (possibly) institutional reforms. We already know that these reforms had disastrous consequences: massive non-payment of salaries, creation of oligarchic monopolies, enterprises sold off at throw-away prices, and a drastic drop in production levels. Now the same formula is being applied to the housing sector. We might observe, in passing, that although the consequences of “shock therapy” proved disastrous for the majority of the population, a small group of managers and business owners did extremely well out of it. We therefore have every reason to assume that housing reform is being driven by similar considerations and is likely to benefit interest groups linked to local authorities. Their enrichment will of course come at the expense of the majority of the population.

The fact is that the business world is in looking for fresh sources of easy money. Privatisation has more or less run its course in the sphere of production, and although takeover bids and aggressive raids have multiplied lately, they only serve to underline the shrinking opportunities in this sphere. The time is ripe to turn to the service sector, and especially to the public services: housing, education, health and public transport. Housing and municipal services are a particularly attractive option. According to estimations made by Oleg Shein, an opposition party delegate of the State Duma, the financial flow within this sector amounts to about 3 trillion roubles (8.5 billion Euros) per year, a capital flow which the new private operators want to see diverted into their hands. An aggravating factor is that residents have become accustomed to paying, since they otherwise risk eviction or having their electricity supply cut off, even though they are not actually receiving the services for which they are paying. Building maintenance and repair, in particular, are frequently inadequate. Worse still, the prize on offer comprises not just public services but also the management of housing blocks and their surroundings, doubtless with the eventual possibility of ‘privatizing’ them, Russian-style, in a more or less legal way. With the stakes so high, pressure on the residents has become intense, as mixed public-private interests seek to manipulate them. Unfortunately, despite a recent strengthening of the housing movement, most Russians are disinclined to act, since they are not used to having to organise to defend their right to their homes, and even less well prepared to take on the challenge of self-management. Even today, there are still those who strongly believe that if they act “well” (legally), the state will take care of them - provide them with housing, improve their housing conditions or grant them subsidies. These paternalistic illusions are carefully nurtured by the current regime and the national media. In reality, a vast real estate hold-up is underway. Let us examine the main features of this operation and the opportunities for resistance.

Public service charges and the protest movement

Federal law no. 210, on the regulation of charges for public services, and the amendments to law no 184 came into effect on 1 January 2006; they established the maximum permissible rise in the amounts charged for public services in each region. However, the experience of the past year shows that the federal agency charged with the regulation of these charges readily “adapts” (i.e. increases) the maximum rates at the behest of the regional and local authorities. In addition, the law only regulates the charges for a limited period. Charges on public services (gas, electricity and water) will be deregulated in 2009, and charges for housing services (maintenance and repairs) will be deregulated once the properties leave state management (with a deadline of July 2007). Since the government is seeking to offload all its responsibilities in this area, the only way to resist is for residents to take over themselves. The only legal weapon they currently have at their disposal is the ‘building management agreement’. If resident associations negotiate such an agreement, they have the means to impose conditions on the housing management or maintenance companies. But if the agreement is imposed by the municipal authorities and the private management company chosen by them, there is a high probability that the terms will be unfavourable to residents.

Another problem is that there is not enough competition in the sector. Negotiating for appropriate charges would need at least a minimum of competition among the service providers. At the moment, there is a virtual monopoly over public services and the housing sector is dominated by the former municipal management agencies (the famous JEKs, in Russian), which have now been privatised or are in the process of privatization, and which benefit from their privileged links with local authorities. Once again, our liberal reformers paid no attention to the issue of competition, in line with their favourite principle: privatise first and then worry about competition later. In practice, this produces private monopolies closely linked to local or even federal authorities. Today, the monopolistic character of the sector as well as absence of financial transparency, combined with official corruption, are the main factors than explain why charges are rising much faster than actual costs. Future increases are therefore likely to be exponential.

The charges already impose too heavy a burden on much of the population, and especially on retired people, the inhabitants of the smaller cities and people whose housing has already been handed over to the management companies. In recent years we have therefore witnessed a growing number of protest movements against the unreasonable increases in the sums being charged, especially at the beginning of the year, when residents receive their new bills.

The year 2006 therefore began with numerous well-attended demonstrations, bringing together thousands of people to protest against the new charges; these demonstrations were often accompanied by spontaneous road-blocks on the principal highways (for example, at Blagovechensk, Lipetsk and Ulyanovsk). In the big cities, these actions are often organised by the political opposition, especially the communist party (KPRF); in the smaller cities, they usually appear spontaneously. However, as a general rule, they have little impact, and charges remaining at the level set. Other methods of protest, such as the court proceedings against unfair charges that many residents have undertaken successfully in the past, have lost their efficacy due to legislative reforms which, amongst other things, have repealed the requirement for independent review of the economic grounds for increased charges.

A substantial rise in charges in a context of frozen salaries and pensions could unleash a wave of evictions for non-payment of utility charges and rent (eviction is permitted by judicial decision after six consecutive months’ non-payment, in the absence of ‘valid reasons’ for non-payment). The evidence of the past year suggests that the courts are not taking the notion of ‘valid reasons’ very seriously, ignoring, for example, unemployment or social isolation as grounds for non-payment. Evictions have already started, if not, to date, on a large scale (although the absence of statistics on the subject makes it difficult to be certain of this). In some cases, such as evictions from workers’ hostels, the intervention of neighbours or activists has prevented evictions, but there is as yet no mass movement against evictions in Russia, no doubt because for the moment these evictions affect mostly the lower classes or the socially excluded. However, given the Eastern European countries’ experiences with deregulation of service charges and rents, we can expect the numbers of evictions to rise. Since tenants are the most at risk, a tenants’ movement needs to be developed to defend tenants’ rights. There is at present virtually no interest in such a movement in Russia, since the favoured strategy of those who can afford it is the free privatisation of their previously state-owned housing, the deadline for which has been postponed to 1 March 2010 as a result of protest movements.

Housing management and residents’ movements

The main objectives of the new housing policy are for the state to rid itself of all responsibility for the housing stock, transferriing the costs of maintenance and repairs to residents, and to direct profits from property and public service infrastructure to private management companies. The arguments supporting this policy are, first, that the state can no longer afford to shoulder these costs, and second, that in the ‘civilized’ world, residents are organised in cooperatives or other collective associations and manage their houses themselves.

However, if we are talking about ‘civilized’ behaviour, the state perhaps needs to look first to itself. For several months large numbers of protesters have been producing resolutions and petitions calling on the government to recognise the debt it has accumulated in respect of monies received from residents paying maintenance charges for their buildings to state or municipal agencies, whilst, in most cases, the supposed maintenance has been limited to a coat of paint in the entry halls or has even resulted in further deterioration. The main demands of the residents’ movement are, therefore, the recognition by the state of the internal debt it has accumulated during the post-soviet years and the rehabilitation, at the state’s cost, of housing in advanced states of deterioration. Since the Russian state manages to find ways of paying its foreign debt, it should by the same token be able to repay its domestic debt, or at least acknowledge its responsibilities towards its own citizens on the same basis as its does with foreign creditors.

In relation to the second issue - management of the housing stock – we are witnessing a real comedy of the absurd. On the one hand, residents are told that they have the right to manage their buildings by themselves, but, on the other hand, everything possible is done, in both legislation and practice, to prevent self-management. The Institute for Collective Action (IKD), which keeps a close watch on these matters, has already accumulated a large amount of information showing how people are forced to ‘choose’ a management company which is, in practice, normally imposed on them by the local authorities, because mayors and municipal agencies refuse to hand over to the residents documents concerning their own homes and because local authorities refuse to recognise the results of the elections concerning choice of management strategy held during official meetings of the residents. There are even reports of cases in which open threats and blackmail have been used. We must add to all this the misinformation to which the residents find themselves subject. Most of the time they receive only limited information leading them to ‘choose’ the ‘tried and tested’ municipal management agency, the JEK. No mention is made of other management options, or of the requirement for all municipal management agencies, JEK or others, to be privatized before July 2007.

As an alternative to private management companies, the new housing code allows owners to choose two other methods of management: co-ownership in condominium (the co-owners create an association with legal personality and elect a director to be responsible for managing the building, either directly or via a management company) and direct management (the co-owners make all the major decisions themselves, either by direct voting during general meetings, or by postal vote; management is placed in the hands of a committee composed of residents as well as an elected representative of the co-owners, and is carried out on the basis of maintenance contracts awarded to companies chosen by the co-owners). Direct management is the strategy that lends itself least readily to manipulation by either private management companies or local authorities in the management of the building or the control of the finances. For this reason, it is rarely discussed, or, if it is, only in the context of assertions that it is simply not a realistic option. Worse still, as a result of pressure from the ultra-liberal Institute of Urban Problems, there is talk of amendments being made to the new housing code to eliminate this option altogether. But in a context of co-ownership (which often falls down on the grounds of lack of transparency or democracy, and which raises the possibility, according to Russian law, that the residents of a building may all bear responsibility for non-payment of charges), direct management is the best option from the perspective of the development of a residents’ movement. The residents make decisions themselves, collectively, elect a maintenance committee and negotiate charges. Contrary to what the official media would have us believe, thousands of buildings have already adopted self-management. In Astrakhan, for example, thanks to the active intervention of the region’s delegate Oleg Shein, hundreds of properties are already in direct management. However, the co-management committees are facing considerable difficulties, notably in their relations with municipal service providers and local authorities, and are in need of legal and organisational support. Nonetheless, with these committees as a starting point, a significant housing movement may emerge as residents organise themselves into management or activist committees, something that is already being done to some extent under the banner of the Union of Coordinating Councils ( soviets ) of Russia (SKS), a network of local activist committees created in April 2005 that is increasingly focusing its activities on the defence of housing rights.

The worst option is the private management companies. In 2006, thousands of protests took as their principal slogan “no to management companies!” The best-coordinated and most consistent campaign was led by the SKS network, which worked all year long, with opposition party delegates such as Oleg Shein and Galina Khovanskaïa proposing amendments to extend the deadline by which contracts are to be awarded to management companies via ‘tender competitions’ run by the municipalities (companies have simply been imposed on residents who have not yet chosen which method of management they want for their building). Under pressure from public opinion, the deadline had already been postponed once at the end of 2005, to 1 January 2006. Since discontent was growing as the deadline approached, the delegates of the party in power (‘United Russia) staged a publicity coup by announcing their intention to postpone it a second time. At the end of November 2006, just before the nation-wide demonstrations organised by the SKS, the State Duma passed, on first reading, an amendment postponing the deadline to 1 January 2008. The inhabitant movements were already celebrating their victory. Then, just before the end-of-year holidays, on 22 December, the delegates passed, on second and third (definitive) reading, an amendment completely rewritten by the reform lobby, giving municipalities the right (but not the ‘obligation’ – a subtle distinction) to organise tender competitions to select the companies that are to benefit from the housing management market. Tender competitions could be undertaken from 1 January 2007 and would have to be completed before 1 May 2008. This shameless conjuring trick was carried out in the greatest secrecy, while the major media were announcing the extension of the deadline by a further year and opposition party delegates tried to denounce the scandal but found themselves subject to a media blackout. The consequences are dramatic: most people think that they have another year to avoid finding themselves in the hands of management companies, and this will no doubt hold up the development of the self-management movement for a similar length of time.

For all these reasons, there is an urgent need to develop a massive housing movement demanding self-management and the creation of housing committees capable of resisting the predations of management companies and the government’s ultra-liberal policies in the housing field. Unfortunately, traditional left-wing parties do not understand the importance of this movement and are often content simply to organise periodic protests calling on the state to acknowledge citizens’ rights to housing. Many parties are calling for a boycott of the reforms, which in the circumstances runs the risk that residents will adopt a wait-and-see strategy.

The Union of Coordinating Councils ( soviets ) of Russia (SKS)

Despite internal disagreements about the tactics needed to fight the reforms, the SKS network has been the only one to carry out a consistent campaign to promote self-management by residents and to defend their rights and interests against the activities of the management companies and local and federal authorities. During 2006, the Union of Coordinating Councils initiated three important inter-regional actions under the banner ‘Towards a social housing policy’. From 12 February to 18 March there was a ‘month of protest actions’; then, from 27 to 29 October, national days of action by the housing movement marking the World Zero Eviction Days organised by the International Alliance of Inhabitants; and finally, the days of action of 1 to 3 December. These last were organised to support the progressive amendments presented by the opposition party delegates calling for an extension of the deadline for tender competitions for the award of contracts to housing management companies, and to demand that the state acknowledge its indebtedness to residents in respect of non-provision of maintenance services. Early December thus saw more than 32 protest actions (rallies, demonstrations, road blockages) being held in 24 regions of the country, with almost 10,000 participants in all. In terms of geographical coverage, numbers of people mobilised and coordination, these days were a success. The media impact was however minimal, since the main press groups completely ignored this mobilisation. We must acknowledge that the SKS movement, with its horizontal coordination and non-partisan character, has a hard time constituting a media presence, especially given its lack of resources and its consistent opposition to the forces in power, at both local and federal levels. It is also worth mentioning that there have been some cases of repression of activists, especially in the Moscow region (in the city of Khimki), where one of the organisers of a rally that had been prohibited by the local authorities was imprisoned for ten days on false pretences.

The largest protest actions were held at Izhevsk (Urals), Novosibirsk (Siberia) and Kirov (Urals). In Izhevsk, more than 2,000 people responded to the calls of the soviet for the coordination of citizen actions, led by Andreï Konoval. The high attendance can largely be put down to the work carried out by the activists of this soviet in previous months, organising residents into committees to fight for their rights. On the same day, the rival rallies organised for purely political reasons by the political parties (including the Communist Party) only attracted 250 participants, all of whom were political activists rather than residents. We should also note the successes achieved at the local level by this soviet , starting with the election of Konoval to the Municipal Duma. In November, on his initiative, the municipal delegates endorsed a petition to the Regional Duma asking for the release of funds for housing repairs. In addition, thanks to the residents’ mobilisation, the Izhevsk City Council is incorporating the amendments put forward by the local association of residents’ committees into the outline agreement regulating the activities of the municipal management company that is due for privatisation.

In Novosibirsk, more than a thousand people participated in the rally organised by the committee for collective actions. After several months of non-activity, this mobilisation marks something of a rebirth of coordinated action bringing together various parties and associations.

In Kirov, some 1,200 people took part in the demonstration, largely thanks to the efficient work of the leader of the local committee for protest actions, Valeri Touroulo, who is also a delegate in the Regional Duma and member of the Russian Communist Workers Party. In this city, since the inter-regional conference of the SKS at Saint Petersburg on 13 July, more than twenty residents’ committees, grouped into one coordinating committee, have been founded. In addition, on Touroulo’s initiative, the regional delegates adopted a petition to the State Duma, asking for a substantial revision of the new housing code and an extension to the deadline for properties to be handed over to management companies.

In Kaliningrad, where the Soviet coordinating council has only been set up recently, the mobilisation was organised by the Communist Party and attracted almost 2,000 participants. The organisers added some general slogans concerning social support for the retired to the claims of the residents’ movements.

While the city of Ekaterinburg welcomed the congress of the political party in power, ‘United Russia’ –one of the targets of protests in the SKS national days of action – the SKS actions were hindered by the refusal of the local authorities to grant the permits needed for the organisation of the demonstrations. Various political parties and associations, and especially the local movement of workers’ hostel residents, nonetheless picketed the congress. In all, more than a thousand people defied the ban on demonstrations.

In other cities, there was very little mobilisation, but those who did take part used the opportunity to increase public understanding of the issues facing residents. In the small Siberian town of Krasnoobsk, the Soviet for associations assembled 150 people for a meeting on 2 December, then the representatives of thirty properties met on the following day, aiming to come up with a common action plan.

In Perm, the rally of 1 December (which was held by torchlight, after dark) brought together 150 participants, most of them activists from the local movement of workers’ hostel residents, representatives of residents’ committees and activists from the local soviet for protest actions. More people would no doubt have participated had the local authorities not refused permission for a rally in front of the regional parliament, where collective protests have traditionally been held. As regional elections were scheduled for the following day, the slogan ‘Spoil your voting paper!’ was added to the normal ones.

In Toliatti, the rally organised by the citizens’ resistance committee, attracted 500 people. The local press ignored the event. Slogans demanding cheap public transport for pensioners were added to the usual ones.

In UIfa, the opposition movement faced heavy pressure from the authorities, with leaders summoned to police stations and subject to ‘preventive’ interrogation. Activists from the ‘Battalion of the 570th Quarter’ nonetheless succeeded in assembling about 500 people, with a primary focus on opposition to the demolition of city centre housing that has been declared unfit for habitation. The rally planned for the central square, in front of the regional parliament, had to be moved elsewhere because of opposition from the authorities.

In Tioumen, some 300 people were mobilised in response to calls from the local soviet, around the figure of the regional delegate Alexandre Tcherepanov (Russian Communist Workers’ Party and leader of the soviet ).

In the Moscow Region, meetings of 100 to 250 people were held in ten towns. The demonstration in Khimki was prohibited. Worse still, a young activist from the local committee and the left-wing youth movement was arrested while handing out leaflets and, after a speedy court appearance, thrown into prison for ten days! On his release, on 23 December, a ‘meet the delegate’ rally was held with Viktor Tioulkin, an opposition party delegate from the State Duma, as the only way to protect demonstrators against retaliation by the local authorities.

In Saratov, where there is less mobilisation, the actions brought together about one hundred people.

In Omsk, with freezing temperatures of -20 degrees, only fifty people turned out to support the picket organised by the workers’ hostel residents’ movement, the Siberian Labour Confederation, the association for the defence of orphans’ housing rights and the committee for protest actions.

Several ‘information pickets’ were also held in different neighbourhoods of Penza, Tomsk and Saint Petersburg. In St Petersburg, a general conference of activists of the citizens’ initiatives movement and of the ‘House of Hope’ association brought together more than 150 people around the slogan ‘Housing laws for people!’. Various actions and declarations were discussed and a decision was taken to seek a popular referendum on the construction of mega projects threatening the city’s historical architecture and ecological balance, especially the gigantesque building for the Gazprom monopoly. The demonstration in front of the regional parliament planned for 5 December had been prohibited.

In Samara, with help from an initiative committee linked to the SKS network, the residents of the neighbouring areas got together to protest against new city limits excluding them from the official urban area and thus depriving them of a number of benefits.

In Moscow, there is less mobilisation around the new housing code, because of the large municipal budget and the populist politics of Mayor Yuri Lujikov, who has kept charges for municipal services to a level that is favourable to the population of the capital. The initiative committee decided to give up its traditional minority meetings in order to organise an assembly of residents’ initiative groups. Some 150 people participated and decided to set up a coordinating committee to promote self-management.

City politics and the movement against demolitions and ‘savage’ development projects

The whole of the last year has been marked by continuous local protest against so-called ‘savage’ development projects (high-density developments of tower blocks at odds with existing housing patterns or ecological norms) and against demolition of houses that have been declared unfit for habitation or are simply in the way of the new projects. Virtually every day brings news of a protest by the residents of such and such a quarter in one or another city, with residents often mobilising spontaneously and associations or political parties then lending them their support. In a number of cases, these actions take quite a radical turn, with residents raising blockades on land for construction, blocking demolitions, cutting down trees, lying down under bulldozers, organising permanent occupations, or invading government offices. When, in summer 2006, the residents of small private houses in the muscovite suburb of Butovo fought to defend their homes against the Moscow City Council, which wanted to demolish them to make way for tower blocks, they managed to attract a lot of interest and obtained the support of a large sector of public opinion.

The stakes are high: land for building is in extremely short supply in the major cities, and extremely costly. The municipalities go to considerable lengths to declare a house ‘unfit for habitation’ from one day to the next, using questionable criteria, or to classify land as ‘municipal reserve’ and evict the owners, rehousing them in areas not of their own choice or compensating them on a dubious basis.

Faced with a rising protest movement, politicians speak more and more of extremist threats and of political groups inciting residents to ‘extremist’ actions. Initiatives are being taken to reform the legislation on extremism and to extend its scope to counter what are in fact spontaneous movements defending themselves against the developers.

The movement resisting real-estate speculation, is, on the whole, poorly structured and coordinated. Residents’ groups in different neighbourhoods act in a relatively isolated manner. The tendency is nonetheless to seek contacts and ways to set up networks, small or large, in which the committees or soviets coordinating actions can participate. The establishment of an integrated mass movement is hindered by the lack of resources, the lack of willingness to defend common interests, and the manoeuvres of political organisations which often seek to use residents’ initiatives for their own ends.

Nevertheless, the movement should develop further in the years to come, as pressure from real-estate companies and local authorities grows. At the same time, legislation keeps on removing more and more rights from residents and extending the field of operation of the property developers, most of which are linked to the local authorities. Reforms to the urban planning code, for example, have abolished the requirement for environmental audits to be carried out before development projects are approved. The State Duma is discussing legal reforms or new laws making it easier for city councils to impose compulsory purchase orders supposedly addressing ill-defined ‘municipal needs’ and making life easier for the development companies. All this, in the name of the need to solve the problem of housing deficits. But the displaced residents and their associations give the lie to this argument, pointing out that the new developments are not intended for social housing but for office centres, leisure centres or luxury housing.

In practice, in most cases, the new urban politics are all about the interests of the big real-estate groups linked to local authorities and ignore social needs as well as planning and ecological norms.

W orkers’ hostels and the movement of hostel residents

The problem facing people who have been living for decades in workers’ hostels but waiting for re-housing is that their existence has simply been ignored by the new housing code, which does not deal with the subject at all. Under pressure from massive protests by a relatively well-structured federal movement representing these residents the authorities, in the person of President Vladimir Putin, opted to give hostel residents the right to privatise their homes.

During 2006, the movement of Russian hostel residents (which was officially founded during the Russian Social Forum in July and which maintains direct links with the SKS network) organised two coordinated actions at federal level, on 5 March and 30 September, bringing together representatives from several cities. More victories are being registered on the legal front, too, as the residents of municipal hostels have seen their right to privatise their homes recognised.

However, there are still many unsolved problems. On the one hand, legislation has not dealt with the municipal hostels illegally ‘privatised’ by companies or federal government in the 1990s. Residents of other types of hostel do not have the right to privatise their homes, and the privatisations of the 1990s cannot be reversed, since the legal term for appeals (reduced to three years by Putin) has already expired. In addition, residents may find themselves in danger of eviction should there be a change of owner, or if the owners seek to profit from converting hostels into hotels or rent increases.

Amendments by opposition party delegates (Khovanskaïa, Shein, Tioulkin et al.), which go some way to solving these problems, were passed at first reading on 28 June 2006. They have not yet received their second and third readings, no doubt because of lobbying by the companies which own the hostels and also a certain lack of interest from the residents, given that some tenants (in municipal hostels) have by and large been successful in defending their rights in the courts.

R eal-estate pyramids and the ‘defrauded co-investors’ movement

The last problem concerns small investors, who have invested all their savings in the construction of housing blocks in exchange for one apartment but who lose both savings and apartment when shady development companies disappear while building is still underway. This massive swindle, which has often received the endorsement of local authorities acting as guarantors for the companies in question, has received a lot of media attention, partly because it touches on the myth of the emerging Russian ‘middle class’, and partly because the movement of ‘defrauded co-investors’, as they call themselves, is particularly well structured, has some resources (since the majority of those affected are small entrepreneurs or young families), and benefits from the help of some media professionals personally affected by the problem. The movement does not hesitate to come up with radical actions (hunger strikes, occupying government offices or unfinished properties, and tent camps – including one in front of the White House, an action which was fiercely repressed in May), because, as they say, they ‘have nothing more to lose, having already lost everything’. They are fighting for a federal solution to their problems, in the form of a law that will guarantee them the right to the apartment for which they have already paid.

Given the movement’s high media profile, it has been the objective in recent months of approaches from different political groups, including some linked with the party in power. This has already produced divisions within the movement, especially between a group that supports the initiatives of the party in power (‘United Russia’), which proposes to solve the problem by means of legislation ensuring that the ‘co-investors’ are refunded, and another that is closer to the newly formed political opposition to ‘United Russia’, the ‘Just Russia’ party, with its own legal proposals. At present, despite the promises and declarations of one party or another, the problem has still not been resolved, and the protest movement is therefore likely to persist

In conclusion, we underline that the housing movement is the fastest-developing social movement in Russia and the one that is most in line with the population’s spontaneous initiatives. Its main demands are for a major overhaul of the legislation on housing issues, property development and city politics. Given that the reforms currently underway, with the support of the party in power and the real-estate lobby groups, fly in the face of what people want, the movement will surely achieve greater prominence next year, even though efforts will no doubt continue to control the movement and to suppress dissent.