In Balashikha this week, another squatter was demolished – a four-story building that was erected in the early 2010s without a building permit. The building was residential – the owner arranged a hostel there for migrants. They failed to legalize him, and he did not get a second chance at life. All over Russia there are thousands of such squatter structures, many of them seem to be absolutely safe, people live in them, but at any time the buildings can be destroyed. What to do with them – “Izvestia” was sorted out.
With signs of arbitrariness
About demolition of house number 26 in the Balashikha microdistrict Saltykovka reported Main Directorate of Regional Security of the Moscow Region. The dismantling of the four-story building was carried out at the expense of the local budget by a court decision in 2016. It was built in the early 2010s with numerous violations: there was no building permit, and the distance from the border of the land plot to buildings was less than three meters, which violated urban planning norms… In a private building, the owner set up a hotel-type hostel, migrants lived there, and local residents complained about garbage, unsanitary conditions and sewage flowing from the yard. The building owner tried to appeal the demolition decision, but to no avail. Now the money spent on this will be collected from him through the courts.
The Main Directorate of State Construction Supervision of the Moscow Region told Izvestia that since the beginning of 2020, 538 unauthorized construction objects have been identified, of which 105 are residential. 79 objects have been demolished since the beginning of the year.
Dismantling of a private house No. 26, recognized by the court as unauthorized construction, Saltykovka microdistrict, Balashikha city district, November 19, 2020
Photo: Main Directorate of Regional Security of the Moscow Region
The authorities of the Moscow region, as well as other regions, have the authority to identify objects of unauthorized construction since August 2018. Glavgosstroynadzor conducts special raids – a certain territory is assigned to each inspector, checks are carried out at objects “with signs of arbitrariness”. The reason for this may be the appeals of citizens, legal entities, information from officials, local authorities, from the media.
“For several years now, Glavgosstroynadzor has been using quadcopters to identify unauthorized buildings,” the department said. – With the help of drones, inspectors manage to detect unauthorized buildings in hard-to-reach places.
A new function has also appeared in the “Moscow Region Construction sites” mobile service based on the “Dobrodel” application: residents of the region can now independently determine whether a particular object is unauthorizedly erected, leave an appeal. The program is based on the principle of “augmented reality”: a smartphone camera is pointed at an object – if information on it does not appear, then there is a reason for checking.
The problem from the 2000s
The Moscow region is not the undisputed leader in terms of the number of residential squatter structures: there are much more of them in the southern regions of Russia, including the Rostov Region, Krasnodar Territory and Crimea, in Yakutia. The head of the All-Russian Center for National Building Policy (VTsNSP) Alexander Moor notes: in the country there are at least 50 thousand residential buildings built without permission. In the same Krasnodar Territory, he notes, the annual increase in objects of unauthorized construction is more than a thousand, despite the fact that local authorities, according to Moor, simply “turn a blind eye” to some objects.
According to him, the problem of self-construction is from the 2000s. On the land intended for individual housing construction (IZHS), they began to erect apartment buildings without permission, because it was impossible to build large buildings on the IZHS. The expert notes that, in fact, it was a kind of renovation that was in demand.
Demolition of a residential building in Sochi, declared illegal by a court decision
Photo: RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin
– What did the business do? He adjusted to the market. And the municipalities, realizing that it was illegal, seemed to have absolved themselves of responsibility: if the court later recognizes the ownership of the object, then we will not object, – he explained in an interview with Izvestia.
And it worked until corruption appeared in the process. And it appeared almost immediately: supervisory authorities began to come to developers, detect violations and make money on it. According to the head of VTsNSP, we are talking about the shadow trillions of rubles that went through the business of unauthorized construction.
Self-construction lawyer Roman Mednikov noted that until 2013–2014 there was a scheme according to which property rights were obtained for apartment buildings.
– Apartment buildings were put into operation through an application for the use of residential premises, then the tenants allegedly quarreled, went to court, legitimizing the ownership of a part of the real estate object, which later became an apartment, – he told Izvestia. – And in 2013–2014, the Supreme Court broke this practice, declaring that this should not be done.
Dmitry Kotrovsky, a member of the Presidium of the Board of Opora Rossii, chairman of the Opora Rossii construction committee, notes that it is impossible to blame only business for the emergence of squatter structures – everyone is to blame.
Demolition of illegally built slipways near the coastal zone “Maly Akhun” in the Khostinsky district of Sochi, April 19, 2013
Photo: RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin
“Any construction project that appears in the municipality cannot be hidden from the regulatory authorities,” he said. – When the money from the buyers went to the developer, I think some kind of checking account was still provided to these unfortunate buyers who acquired these strange properties without legal basis. Someone had to watch this. The state had grounds for checks.
At the same time, Kotrovsky notes, these houses can be completely different – there are built-on garages in Sochi, and there are absolutely safe buildings, for which all the examinations that meet building standards have been carried out. But both those and others, in theory, should be demolished.
Now all over the country there are unauthorized buildings in which people live – and their houses, in theory, can be demolished. However, the 2018 law gave the regions the right to legalize them.
– There are regions that meet the needs of the residents of such houses, and the Krasnodar Territory categorically does not want to understand: houses are demolished, people are kicked out into the street – and that’s it, ”says Moor. – Now they sent me: in Sochi, another house is being demolished, the only housing for people. But mistakes must be admitted, the possibility of new objects must be eliminated by law, and those that can be saved must be saved.
The register of samostroi is now being drawn up by the All-Union Central Council of Socialist-Revolutionaries. The list, which is published on the website, contains only 1,137 houses, taking into account the applications that came to the Center – about 5 thousand.
“You can’t just accept applications, they must be considered carefully,” says Moore. – We have applications where they are trying to present commercial objects, buildings in which people do not live, and so on, under the guise of residential self-construction. Our task is not to legalize all self-construction, but to help those people who may remain on the street.
According to him, the registry is being prepared to present the scale of the problem – and only then decide what to do next. The expert believes that the problem could be solved by analogy with the garage amnesty: to identify a specific number of housing units that could be legalized, and then carry out a one-time amnesty for these facilities.
– Besides, it is necessary to increase the responsibility of municipal officials for the emergence of a new squatter. Now they do not bear any responsibility, therefore, corruption risks in this part are growing, – Moore said…
Photo: RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov
He emphasizes that “one should not be afraid to accept amnesty and be afraid that new objects of unauthorized construction will appear”.
At the same time, ONF expert Pavel Sklyanchuk believes that it is difficult to talk about an amnesty in this matter.
– Garage and dacha amnesty is the abolition of documents for commissioning, and squatter construction is the problem of not obtaining a building permit, ”he told Izvestia. – Therefore, we need to talk not about amnesty, but about a census of illegal housing construction and the creation of a federal commission to eliminate unauthorized construction.
State Duma Deputy Pavel Fadeev also notes that it is impossible to legalize all unauthorized construction.
“Situations can be completely different,” he told Izvestia. – Somewhere the squatter building is completely unfit for habitation, somewhere it was built with great disruptions. But if the building was built in accordance with all standards and does not pose a threat to the life of citizens, then, in principle, there is nothing wrong with that in order to legalize this object. There is no one solution here – this is a complex issue. And in 2018, we gave the subjects the right to try to start solving this story.
At the same time, he admits: all the nuances were not spelled out in that law, so the municipalities did not have enough tools to legalize self-built structures.
– And you need to either prescribe everything in more detail, or there should be a separate document on self-construction, because there really is a problem, – he says.
“Everyone has already served”
Moore is sure that now practically no new self-construction structures can appear anywhere: “So many people have suffered that it is absolutely stupid to start new construction on individual housing construction.”
“Now any developer understands that if earlier he negotiated with the administration behind the scenes, now officials cannot give guarantees,” he said. – This is a very big risk that everyone knows about. I don’t see new objects like this showing up. They are there, but where the developers are supported by the administration, where they have guarantees that are carefully hidden. This situation does not occur en masse.
He notes: if the court recognizes the building as an object of unauthorized construction and makes a decision on its demolition, then a criminal case is automatically initiated: people live there, which means there are victims.
An unauthorized cottage in the village “Virage” on the Karamyshevskaya embankment in Moscow is demolished by a court decision, May 8, 2013
Photo: RIA Novosti / Grigory Sysoev
“As a rule, these developers have already served a long time, who is in prison, who paid a fine,” he noted. – The house is recognized as an unauthorized building, the developer is punished – and that’s it, the house is standing, people live in it. We have unauthorized structures in which people live for 15 years. They pay utility bills, but they live in a house that has a demolition decision. The bailiffs cannot demolish it, because this is the only housing for people. You can’t go to court – the courts have already passed everything, the bailiffs cannot close the writ of execution. And nobody knows what to do.
Kotrovsky also notes that a new squatter building can appear only if three components coincide: there is a free land plot, there is an entrepreneur who is not afraid of the consequences, and there is no control.
“The situation with unauthorized construction happened only because the state did not have enough resources to keep track of such things,” he said.