Policy ideas shared by Gosstroy officials and insider experts during the early 1990s

Until 1992, the housing policy network - a group of state and nonstate policy actors directly involved in housing policy-making - were Gosstroy officials and Russian non-state housing policy advisors. Before these actors were joined by the international advisors from 1992 onwards, their ideas were vague and generally leaning towards the use of mixed housing instruments. After 1992, their policy views acquired greater clarity and the paradigm of owner-occupation began to predominate.

At the time when the 'hollow' market paradigm was institutionalised in Russian housing policy in 1990-1991, Gosstroy officials and insider advisors - the IEHUS institute - supported housing privatisation and the organisation of collective ownership in multi-apartment blocks of flats via associations of tenants (tovarishchestva zhil'tsov or sobstvennikov zhil'ya) (Chernyshov, 1997; Tagi-Zade, 1992; Lopatkin, 1992b).6 Their advocacy envisaged a complex equity-oriented variant of housing privatisation. Beside housing privatisation, rental accommodation would also be preserved, with low-income families offered social housing at reduced costs and better-off families paying commercial rents (Bychkovsky, 1992b). Yet, Gosstroy specialists were lacking a clearly defined vision of which of the forms should predominate: they were vague on the issues as to what proportion of housing would become private, how collective ownership of private housing would operate, how the commercial ownership of housing would be organised and how housing privatisation would be implemented. The lack of ready answers to these policy questions was reflected and, probably, was one of the reasons behind the adoption of the 'hollow' paradigm in 1990-1991.

Once Gosstroy began its work with the team of international consultants from early 1992,7 its policy preferences became more focused. The work of Gosstroy and its international advisors from 1992 onwards centred on the promotion of the paradigm of private ownership or 'owner-occupation' (Struyk et al., 1995).8 Nadezhda Kosareva, director of the IUE, wrote that they saw as their policy objective to encourage private housing ownership in Russia and to achieve its prevalence over the rental sector (Kosareva, 1998a). Private ownership would be encouraged among all income categories. Only low-income families would be offered social housing provided by local municipalities (Struyk et al., 1995). The spread of owner-occupation meant that the majority of Russians would reside in their 'own' housing units, be it apartments or individual houses. Therefore, the practice of municipally-owned apartments rented to the public on the terms of a social contract (naim), as it existed until 1992, had to be reformed by allowing mass housing privatisation to spread mass housing ownership.

Gosstroy officials and international housing experts from 1992 onwards shared a view that if privatisation was to occur on a mass level it had to be conducted quickly and, therefore, without constraining conditions (Struyk and Telgarsky, 1992). In 1992, they suggested opting for a parsimonious mode (or setting) of the privatisation strategy. This strategy was sealed with the introduction of amendments to the Law 'On privatisation of Housing Stock in the RSFSR' from 4 July 1991 (O vnesenii izmeneniy, 1992), which replaced privatisation for a fee with a 'free for all' formula regardless of the quality and quantity of accommodation being privatised (Khodjaev, 1993). This approach focused on achieving a quick and administratively simple transfer of housing property to those families who lived in it. Similar to the case of enterprise privatisation discussed by Boycko et al. (1995) and Shleifer and Treisman (2000: 37), the objective of housing privatisation amounted to the rapid creation of private ownership which was believed to generate commitment to the principles of market economy and democracy among the Russian people.

Housing condominiums were proposed as an instrument to organise collective management of the multi-apartment blocks where most Russians resided. Condominium associations were proposed to unite the individual owners of all privatised apartments in a housing block and this collective body would sign contracts with the providers of specific housing services: maintenance and utilities (Sivaev, 1996; Struyk and O'Leary, 1993; Struyk and Telgarsky, 1992). The formation of condominiums was seen as a vital policy instrument to accompany housing privatisation. These associations were not only a mechanism via which individual housing owners would assume and exercise the responsibility for their property but also a means of introducing competition among the utility producers (Struyk et al., 1995).

Overall, from 1992 onwards, when Gosstroy started to work with international housing advisors, its views acquired greater clarity compared to the 1990-1991 period. Gosstroy and its experts cast their support behind the paradigm of owner-occupation, with its key instruments: the spread of mass private housing ownership through the means of unconditional and free privatisation, and the transfer of responsibility for housing maintenance from the state, that is local municipalities, to the new private owners via the organisation of condominiums.

 
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