Housing the New Russia

Housing the New Russia

Jane R. Zavisca
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Housing the New Russia
    Book Description:

    In Housing the New Russia, Jane R. Zavisca examines Russia's attempts to transition from a socialist vision of housing, in which the government promised a separate, state-owned apartment for every family, to a market-based and mortgage-dependent model of home ownership. In 1992, the post-Soviet Russian government signed an agreement with the United States to create the Russian housing market. The vision of an American-style market guided housing policy over the next two decades. Privatization gave socialist housing to existing occupants, creating a nation of homeowners overnight. New financial institutions, modeled on the American mortgage system, laid the foundation for a market. Next the state tried to stimulate mortgages-and reverse the declining birth rate, another major concern-by subsidizing loans for young families.

    Imported housing institutions, however, failed to resonate with local conceptions of ownership, property, and rights. Most Russians reject mortgages, which they call "debt bondage," as an unjust "overpayment" for a good they consider to be a basic right. Instead of stimulating homeownership, privatization, combined with high prices and limited credit, created a system of "property without markets." Frustrated aspirations and unjustified inequality led most Russians to call for a government-controlled housing market. Under the Soviet system, residents retained lifelong tenancy rights, perceiving the apartments they inhabited as their own. In the wake of privatization, young Russians can no longer count on the state to provide their house, nor can they afford to buy a home with wages, forcing many to live with extended family well into adulthood. Zavisca shows that the contradictions of housing policy are a significant factor in Russia's falling birth rates and the apparent failure of its pronatalist policies. These consequences further stack the deck against the likelihood that an affordable housing market will take off in the near future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6430-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Note on Translation and Russian Names
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. Introduction: A Painful Question
    (pp. 1-20)

    Most housing in the Soviet Union was built, distributed, and owned by the party-state. In 1992 the new Russian government signed an agreement with the United States to implement the Housing Sector Reform Project, which aimed to transform the housing sector into a market. The government privatized property rights to the occupants of socialist housing, creating the chief source of household wealth in the new economy. New financial institutions, modeled on the American mortgage system, laid the foundation for a market. The government tried to stimulate housing markets, as well as the birthrate, by giving mortgage subsidies to young families....

  8. Part I: The Development of the Post-Soviet Housing Regime

    • Chapter 1 The Soviet Promise: A Separate Apartment for Every Family
      (pp. 23-48)

      In 1957, Nikita Khrushchev issued a decree to house every Soviet family in a separate apartment within twelve years, launching “perhaps the most ambitious governmental housing program in human history” (Ruble 1993, 234). Housing the populace in separate apartments laid the groundwork for a post-Stalin social contract, which aimed to achieve social quiescence without recourse to terror (Hauslohner 1987; Cook 1993). However, the most appealing features of the separate apartment—prosperity and privacy—also made it ideologically dangerous. The party-state instructed socialist citizens on how they should live, both by disseminating propaganda and by inscribing meanings into the logics of...

    • Chapter 2 Transplant Failure: The American Housing Model in Russia
      (pp. 49-68)

      After Soviet rule collapsed, the new government tried to construct a housing market. This chapter traces the process of transplanting American housing institutions to Russia through three stages: from an initial focus on privatization, to the establishment of mortgage finance, to the government’s attempts to rescue the market from failure. To jump-start a housing market, the Russian Federation signed an agreement with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement the Housing Sector Reform Project (HSRP). The project, one of USAID’s largest in the region, was funded by the US Freedom for Russian and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open...

    • Chapter 3 Maternity Capitalism: Grafting Pronatalism onto Housing Policy
      (pp. 69-85)

      All Russian women who give birth to a second child receive maternity capital, a ten-thousand-dollar voucher that they can apply toward housing.¹ Maternity capital is now one of Russia’s largest social commitments besides the pension system and is its most significant housing subsidy. Worth over a year’s average wages, maternity capital is the largest baby bonus in the world relative to income. To give a sense of scale, the equivalent bonus in the United States would be worth more than forty thousand dollars. Existing baby bonuses for second children in other countries, including Australia, Italy, Poland, Singapore, and Spain, are...

    • Chapter 4 Property without Markets: Who Got What as Markets Failed
      (pp. 86-100)

      To fully understand Russia’s stratification order, we must understand its housing order. Yet studies of postsocialist stratification rarely consider housing inequality. Most research concentrates on labor market income, the key dependent variable in sociological debates over inequality during market transition (Gerber and Hout 1998; Nee and Cao 2002; Verhoeven et al. 2005). This focus on wages, while important, overlooks an insight from the sociology of wealth: income and occupation are inadequate proxies for living standards in established market economies (Keister 2000; Spilerman 2000; Fischer and Hout 2006, chapter 6) and are even weaker measures of well-being in postsocialist contexts (Burawoy...

    • Chapter 5 Disappointed Dreams: Distributive Injustice in the New Housing Order
      (pp. 103-129)

      A preoccupation of everyday life, housing is a lens through which Russians evaluate the legitimacy of the transition to capitalism. Most Russians perceive the housing system to be in crisis, according to surveys and focus groups commissioned by the Russian government. Unmet demand for housing remained high. In 2006 just 20 percent of city dwellers had moved in the previous decade, whereas half wished to do so but did not think they could. In 2007, two-thirds of eighteen- to thirty-five-year-olds reported they needed better housing conditions, but only one-third had plans to move within the next few years.¹

      This sense...

  9. Part II: The Meaning of Housing in the New Russia

    • Chapter 6 Mobility Strategies: Searching for the Separate Apartment
      (pp. 130-143)

      How do young Russians try to obtain separate apartments under the conditions of property without markets? The vast majority turns to extended family for help. Most have little hope of buying their own homes with their own means. Renting is realistic for some, but as we saw in chapter 5, does not qualify as a place of one’s own. Opportunities to borrow are also limited, and mortgages do not provide a full sense of ownership, as we shall see in chapter 9. Thus home buyers usually either pay in full at the time of purchase or invest a significant down...

    • Chapter 7 Rooms of Their Own: How Housing Affects Family Size
      (pp. 144-162)

      Most young Russians define normal housing in terms of Khrushchev’s promise of a separate apartment for the nuclear family. Many also believe that parents need a separate room from their children, and ideally each child in the family would have his or her own room. As chapter 6 showed, Russians rely on extended family networks for help with housing. How do they make do when neither family nor market can provide them with the housing they feel they need to live normally? Restricting family size is one strategy for keeping one’s living conditions tolerable, when a separate apartment and/or a...

    • Chapter 8 Children Are Not Capital: Ambivalence about Pronatalist Housing Policies
      (pp. 163-174)

      Housing influences decision making about second births, as chapter 7 demonstrated. How have young Russians reacted to government policies that seek to stimulate birth by investing in the housing sector? Housing-based baby bonuses could potentially influence the birthrate, through two mechanisms. The first mechanism is straightforward: if maternity capital improves housing conditions, and housing conditions determine reproductive behavior, then maternity capital should lead to higher fertility. The second mechanism is political. Russia’s fertility decline symbolizes the decline of the nation after socialism. If maternity capital helps to legitimize the transition to a housing market, this could improve women’s confidence in...

    • Chapter 9 To Owe Is Not to Own: Why Russians Reject Mortgages
      (pp. 175-193)

      Most analysts attribute mortgage market failure in Russia to material conditions: high interest rates, high housing prices, an unstable currency, and macroeconomic instability. This chapter analyzes a critical but little-studied factor that undermined the emergence of the market: the lack of consumer demand for mortgages. This is not to deny the significance of supply constraints: most Russians as of 2009 would not have qualified for a mortgage even if they had wanted one (see chapters 2 and 3). Yet the problem was not simply one of tightened supply, as credit crises are usually understood. Credit can only flow if potential...

  10. Conclusion: A Market That Could Not Emerge
    (pp. 194-200)

    Transplanting American housing institutions to Russia failed both as housing policy and legitimation strategy, because the resultant housing order did not provide young families with a clear, fair path to attain a “separate apartment,” the grounds for a normal family life. Desiring a separate apartment for the nuclear family is neither natural nor inevitable. For most of human history, people have lived with extended family. French social historian Philippe Aries (1962) dates the emergence of the nuclear family to the eighteenth century in Europe. Kenneth Jackson (1985) argues that the cultural shift toward the nuclear family only began in the...

  11. Appendix
    (pp. 201-206)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-218)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 219-236)
  14. Index
    (pp. 237-242)