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Aug 04

Housing in Europe

Housing in Europe is pretty similar all over the continent. If you though that ugly panel block public housing exists only in former communist eastern block, you are WRONG. Western Europe have ugly public housing too, but it is hidden at city outskirts and built to improve standard of living of the poor, usually inhabited by immigrants, it is a place for crimes. In Eastern Europe you see ugly public housing everywhere in the city. Socialists governments demolished most private houses including historical monuments and forced everyone, even the rich class, to move in low quality apartments.

Western Europe

One my favorite places to live are in the Northern Europe: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland… all are equilibrated countries, wealthy population and low income inequality. All cities have a mix of high-rise and low-rise apartment blocks and landed houses neighborhoods, good infrastructure, good public transport and plenty of green space. Sweden have probably the best public housing of Europe, the Miljonprogrammet, supposedly building 1 million apartments in 1965-1974, but actually I see many more recent-built public housing, also is not normal for a public housing programme to end, so what is the truth?

Also, does anyone know about similar programmes of Norway and Finland? They have similar public housing too.

Almost same opinion about Germany, Denmark, and Netherlands, but just fewer apartment buildings and more landed houses. Definitely a BETTER place to live than in America.

See also Housing in Europe on Wikipedia, showing breakdown of housing types each European country.
And Greenlivingpedia, average size of NEW homes in various countries of Europe and not only.

Viikki, aerial view Reykjavík, view from a tower bock
Olso, aerial view Uppsala, aerial view Rinkeby, aerial view
Hundreds of aerial photos of Oslo and surroundings HERE

My attention was attracted by Berlin city because is the single city in the world which was governed by both communists and capitalists, so developed differently. West Berlin tourists visiting East Berlin were complaining about the grayness of city caused by communist public housing. WRONG! Both parts of Berlin have ugly and gray public housing, the difference is that in East Berlin many old buildings were demolished and you will see public housing everywhere, while in West Berlin you will find many beautiful pre-war buildings in central area, which hides the public housing at city outskirts. In the 2000s all public housing from both parts of city was renovated and painted in nice colors.

Apartment sizes are similar in both parts, about 50 sqm 2-room, 70 sqm 3-room, 85 sqm 4-room, but West Berlin is dominated by 3 to 5-storey blocks with 3- and 4-room while East Berlin by 8+ storey blocks with 2- and 3-room.

Mummelmannsberg, capitalist-style public housing from Hamburg
Mummelmannsberg

United Kingdom have the most uninteresting architecture of Europe, and too conservative people in my opinion. Newbies can easily confuse the houses built today with the ones built 100 years ago. Very few apartment buildings and landed houses everywhere, no distinctive features. United Kingdom homes are the smallest in Western Europe, average size of NEW homes is 76 sqm according Greenlivingpedia. Most common type is the 3-bedroom semi-detached and terraced houses, which are only around 70 sqm. Historical area of London is again less interesting compared with other European cities. Sorry, I do not like the UK architectural style. Almost same opinion about Ireland too.

DailyMail claims new house sizes 925 sq ft while 1920s houses were 1647 sq ft.

You MUST SEE THIS research showing average size, household size, number of bedrooms, etc, over last 1 CENTURY. Terraced houses were common before war, after war semi-detached houses were common, today detached became dominant in newly-built areas.

France have a lot of history and heritage buildings, Paris being the most visited city in the world by tourists, but I do not think that living conditions are so good like in Northern Europe, Germany or Italy. Extensive public housing programme in France, Habitation à Loyer Modéré, houses about 22% of country population. 3 and 4-room apartments are dominant, I am not sure about average apartment size but looks small. The blocks have many distinctive designs but most are simple, white and ugly.

Spain cities have extensive metro systems, dense cities with a lot of apartment buildings very close each other, with continuous facades, some apartments have view only to a 5-meter wide internal courtyard, parking is a major problem. Valencia old town have the most beautiful collection of buildings I ever seen, a lot of Art Deco buildings, following a height regime of Ground + 8 floors + 9th recessed floor. Possible law.

Italy have best preserved antique and medieval buildings. Most population lives in apartments, point blocks with no continuous facades, but most are old and too dense. At certain distance from city centers, the classic buildings ends and, before the city outskirts with modern buildings, there is a big number of Art Deco buildings which I love. Metro systems are scarce so traffic jams are common.

Venice is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, but also one of the WORST places to live in the world. The city of Venice have 270.000 people but include more areas than the well-known water city, of which population dropped from 120.000 in 1980 to 60.000 in 2010, of which one-third is aged above 65, according Wikipedia, mainly due of lack of jobs and emigration for a modern life, but paradoxically property prices are rising crazy, due of foreign investors buying buildings and renting to tourists.

Imagine living in Venice, what if you need to a car to drive through Italy? Newest areas of the city are old from 19th century so cannot offer a modern standard of living. Canals are several meters wide but distance between house facades across walkways be small as 1 meter. In some periods of year you need to walk through water to leave building. In most buildings the ground floor is uninhabitable. If you leave major canals you will see a lot of abandoned buildings in danger of collapse.

Turkey… with a growing population and developing economy, Turkey have a booming real estate industry since 1990s. Despite that it was never under communism, majority of population live in apartment buildings, lots of small detached buildings with 4-5 floors and 2 apartments per floor, and since 2000s high-rise towers with larger open spaces became common.

The competition of real estate developers created a lot of distinctive designs and colorful cities. Apartments follow the European layouts rather than Middle East lifestyle, with a hallway leading to living room and bedrooms, instead of entry directly in living room, 3-bedroom apartments are dominant and rooms are bigger compared with rest of Europe. Who loves studying modern residential buildings of Europe should keep an eye on Turkey!

Apartment sizes varies much: usually 1+1 rooms 40-70 sqm, 2+1 rooms 60-90 sqm, 3+1 rooms 90-130 sqm, 4+1 rooms 120-160 sqm, net areas. Most apartments with >2(bedrooms)+1(living) have 2 bathrooms but not always en-suite. Plenty of floor plans can be found by searching kat planari on Google.

Antalya, Turkey
Ankara, Turkey
 Antalya, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey  Antalya, Turkey
Point mouse on photos to see place name!

Eastern Europe

Palace of the Parliament of Romania

Hard to believe for typical visitors of my website, I am romanian!!
I studied many romanian cities, before studying Singapore, and I found numerous similarities:

– Five-year housing programmes starting from 1960s, HDB in Singapore founded in 1960 too.
– Public housing in Bucharest house 80-85% of population… same like Singapore.
– Density in public housing of Bucharest reach 250 units per hectare in 1970s neighborhoods built entirely/mostly with 10-storey blocks (even HIGHER than Singapore’s standard of 200 units per hectare used until 1990s, 12-storey blocks in average), 70000 people per sq km (what helped reaching this density is the apartment average size 55 sqm compared with 95 sqm in Singapore).
– Nationwide car ratio is 1 car per 6 people, same like Singapore, but Bucharest car ratio is about 1 car per 2.5 people, exceeding number of designated parking lots about 10 times, many Romanians use their car everyday so traffic is a hell, while Singapore have best public transport in the world.

Housing in Romania

Between World War I and II, Romania was largely a rural country, but Bucharest enjoyed real estate boom, several hundred luxury apartment blocks with Art-Deco theme were built, reaching heights of Ground+12f, making streets to look like canyons, making Bucharest to look like New York, especially on Victoriei and Magheru streets. The apartment sizes reach 150 sqm and top floors are recessed, offering penthouse units with roof terraces. Unfortunately, the real estate boom combined with lack of earthquake engineering caused collapse of 30 of them at 1977 earthquake, many of remaining pre-war buildings risk to collapse at the next earthquake.

More photos with Art Deco buildings on rezistenta.net, also with damaged buildings on 1977 earthquake.

Bucharest was also nicknamed “Little Paris” in inter-war period, but personally I don’t see significant similarity with Paris. Also, majority of cars seen on Romanian roads were American-produced.

Photos from Magheru street: present vs 1930s.
Creditul Minier, Bucuresti 1930s Magheru, Bucharest
Unnamed Building on Magheru Hotel Ambasador, Bucharest

1930s video… can you believe that this is Bucharest and not New York?
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Romanian real estate during communism

Monarch was abolished in 1947 and communists took control. In the first decade of communist regime, lead by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej numerous factories were built and economy was rising fast. Public housing development was limited to redevelopment of the areas destroyed by World War II and in-fill developments to street facades, and small-scale neighborhoods, composed by G+2, G+3 blocks, G+7f high-rise blocks, as well as terraced and semi-detached houses.

Mass housing programme began in 1960, large-scale apartment complexes being built at outskirts of every major city, composed by walk-up blocks G+4f and tower blocks G+9f, at minimum 30 meters apart.

Nicolae Ceaușescu, known as one of the most brutal leaders in the world, became head of state in 1967. Economy growth was slowing down. Instead of brick buildings, they used prefabricated panels, allowed building a block in less than 1 year, construction ratio was increased but quality of apartments was reduced, stripping wood floors and wall tiles. Blocks were G+4f and G+10f, at minimum 20 meters apart.

Most blocks ave 4 units per floor, some 2 or 3 units per floor to provide more 3/4-room apartments. There are also all-1-room blocks with 12 or more units per floor. Despite that communist promote equality, most Romanian blocks have 2 apartment types, some even 3 (2/3/4-room). This is less common in other communist countries.

Apartment complexes followed same pattern like other communist countries, towers in a park, large green spaces, low number of streets, number of apartments facing main roads kept at minimum.

But, after 1975 they changed radically: blocks were build facing streets, surrounding a semi-enclosed courtyard used for parking, G+8f at major streets and G+4f at minor streets, front-facing apartments get pollution and back-facing apartments get blocked views, minimal distance between blocks was reduced to 12m, green space became minimal, but the density (units per hectare) is lower compared with pre-1975 complexes, due of the space occupied by roads and parking access. Example: Berceni neighborhood, the area eastern than Soseaua Berceni is built after 1975, see difference compared with western area built before 1975?

Typical apartment sizes: 1-room (25-35 sqm), 2-room (35-50 sqm), 3-room (45-65 sqm), 4-room (55-75 sqm), while the block models introduced in 1985 have apartments 20% bigger: 1-Room (40 sqm), 2-room (60 sqm), 3-room (80 sqm), 4-room (100 sqm), in same period were still under construction blocks from 1975 and 1980 generations, but in the complexes planned after 1985 the average apartment size goes to 70 sqm. The numbers do not include walls or balconies… this is the Romanian law.

Bucharest statistics: population at the 2002 census: 1,926,334 inhabitants, 10% lower than the peak in 1990. According my own statistics, there’s about 610,000 apartments in the city, that houses 80-85% of the population. I estimate average apartment size at 55 sqm and the distribution is 15% 1-Room, 35% 2-Room, 40% 3-Room, 10% 4-Room, <0.5% 5-Room, this means 2.8 people per family and 20 sqm per capita. Smaller cities have the distribution 10% 1-Room, 45% 2-Room, 40% 3-Room, 5% 4-Room, bigger family size, and the ratio can go down to 10 sqm per capita. Estimation may have an error margin due of many people residing in small cities and villages but actually living in big cities. Countrywide average apartment size is around 50 sqm.

Almost every town with more than 20.000 people have few tower blocks. Some cites over 200.000 people also have one, two or three Ground+12-14f block near train station. Bucharest have 10 blocks Ground+15-17f too.

The apartment floor plans have entrance door leading to a hallway, the living room, kitchen and bedrooms are accessible from hallway, so the low number of bedrooms is compensated by using living room for sleeping purposes. About half of apartments, mostly pre-1975 ones have passing-thought living room, a style common and appreciated in America and Asia, but in Romania, due of low number of bedrooms, apartments built with such floor plan are underpriced.

Some apartments have full-length balconies (12 m long balcony for 3-room), other apartments have no balconies at all. Some 1980s blocks have balconies varying in shape from floor to floor, possible to break the monotony, but in my opinion is an aesthetic disaster. Closure of balconies after fall of communism made everything uglier.

Public housing in Romania: The BEST (Unirii Bulevard) vs The WORST (Ferentari District)
Bulevardul Unirii, high-end public housing Ferentari, low-end public housing

Typical cities, aerial view… see the amount of colorless
Botosani, aerial view Vulcan, aerial view

Caged balconies that remind me of Hong Kong… but this is Romania (Ferentari neighborhood)!
Caged balconies in Romania, reminds me of Hong Kong Caged balconies in Romania, reminds me of Hong Kong

Communist public housing is known as low-quality housing, however if in Singapore all blocks built up to 1990 had lifts stopping every 4-5 floors (same for social housing built in UK and USA), in Romania the lifts stopped on every floor since earliest 1950s housing. Please note that majority of blocks are 5-storey and do not have lifts at all (walk-up blocks do not have refuse chute either, people who are lazy to go downstairs throw the trash out of window).

The communist government built about 3 million apartments nationwide (source: Ziarul Financiar – PS: do not trust the apartment sizes specified in that article, they are inflated, probably exclude studio apartments, include balconies, etc).

My personal estimation is that they housed 40% of the country population of 23 million people in 1990 (today population dropped to 20 million people), note that 45-50% of country population still live in villages, then several more percents live in so-called cities but in same countryside conditions.

Since 1982 Ceaușescu became obsessed to pay the country foreign dept, thus increased workdays from 5 to 6, rationalized food and gas, limited television to 1 channel broadcasting only 2 hours per day, mostly propaganda, turned off district heating at random times and created daily power blackouts to “save energy” for heavy industry, increased production by quantity instead of quality, and tried to export as much is possible by creating shortages of food and other goods in his own country, but the products were noncompetitive on export markets and the profits were small. People had to wait few years to buy a car, a TV set, etc. This dramatically lowered the living standards of Romanians. The foreign debt was fully paid in mid-1989 but the heavy exports continued, population tired of austerity started to 1989 Romanian Revolution , when about 100 people where shot by army at others of the president before the army joined with population and shot the president, and another 1000 people were killed over next days for no reason.

What intrigues is what were the living conditions in other communist countries and how they overthrown the communist governments non-violently and without killing their leaders.

Romanian real estate after fall of communism

After fall of communism, economy worsened even more, unemployment, inflation, rising criminality, etc. Prices were rising more than salaries, as many local factories of cheap products were closed, many goods started being imported and this increased cost of living. This is valid for most former eastern block countries. During 1990s only East Germany and Czech Republic managed to recover and reach gross domestic product peak from communism, while Romania reached during 2000s. Lots of violent anti-government protests still happen across Eastern Europe, including 1990, 1991 and 1999 Romanian Mineriads2011-2012 Russian protests2012 Romanian anti-Basescu protests, and 2013-2014 Euromaidan (Ukraine). Romanians demand higher salaries, but the country economy is not powerful enough to pay them.

Very little improvements in infrastructure were done by capitalist governments. Massive emigration made Romania to suffer from lack of skilled workforce, especially in health and education system. All these problems keep foreign investors away and raise concerns about the future of this country.

No new apartment buildings were built in Romania between 1990 and 2002. During 2000s Romania experienced the biggest property bubble in the world, apartment prices rising 10 times in 5 years, reaching prices comparable with Western Europe despite that salaries were still low although they also rose. Private apartment construction started.

Romania and Bulgaria joined European Union as 1 January 2007, making easier for foreign real estate investors to come there. Numerous new apartment projects were launched, many luxury apartments aimed to new affluent class of Romanians.

After 20 years of capitalism, Romania was hit hard by 2008 recession. Gross domestic product felt down for 5 consecutive years, and real estate prices in Bucharest felt from 2300 euro / sqm in 2008 to 1300 euro / sqm in 2009, continued to fall to 1000 euro / sqm in 2014 then stagnated (source: imobiliare.ro), people no longer able to pay mortgage, banks put their homes at auction, and, as I have seen in the news, there were cases in which house value was not enough to pay the debt so they had to sell at auction houses of family relatives too. Number of apartments built in 25 years of capitalism (1990-2015) is lower than what was built in 1 year of communism. Half of apartments started in 1990-2010 are abandoned as 2015, due to recession.

New apartments built in capitalism times have larger rooms compared with communist apartments, big as 40 sqm 1-room, 70 sqm 2-room and 100 sqm 3-room, but majority are 1- and 2-room, and are still too expensive for typical romanian worker. Even if I live here I do not understand why they are not building apartments with smaller but more rooms. Crazy and stupid!

What are the good parts of Romania:
– The beautiful villages in Transylvania, where the traditions are preserved for centuries.
– Well developed mountain tourism, ski resorts, thanks to communist regime.
– The wealth distribution is pretty good, thanks to communist regime who eliminated rich people. Recently there are few homeless people and few too rich people, but not as worse like in Latin America countries which have similar GDP per capita but significant population is under poverty line. Note that many countries outside Europe are fast-developing so may exceed Romania soon.
– I have NOTHING to praise about post-1989 capitalist regime.

More details about living conditions, see Life in my country page.

Landed housing

Landed housing in Romania (and rest of Eastern Europe) is very spread, in rural areas and small cities, houses have yards over 1000 sqm, there are many villages with population small as 1000 people, but over 5 km long, sometimes a single-road villages.

In cities, lot frontages are narrow and many houses are attached to North border of lot (or North-East, North-West). Courtyard surround the house on 3 sides. in Transylvania many houses are L-shaped by having additional wing parallel to street, forming a continuous street facade.

There are very few terraced or semi-detached houses in Romania.

Car industry

Eastern Europe developed own car industry, but while Western Europe manufacturers were replacing car models every 8-10 years in average, Eastern Europe cars were produced for many decades without any major changes, and continued to be produced after fall of communism due to economy fall, they were the only cars that population could afford.

Notable examples: Dacia 1300-1410 = Renault 12 clone (1969-2004), Polski Fiat 125p (1967-1991), FSO Polonez (1978-2002), GAZ M24 Volga (1970-2010), Lada Zhiguli / Nova (1970-2012), Lada Samara (1984-2013), Trabant 601 (1964-1991), Wartburg 353 (1965-1991), Zastava Skala 1971-2008), Zastava Koral (1978-2008). Due to focusing to exports, waiting list to buy a car was up to 10 years.

Interestingly, Turkey despite that was all time a capitalist country, had some long-production models too: Renault 12 (1971-2000) and Fiat 131 (1977-2002).

After fall of communism, some of the Eastern Europe car factories were purchased by western automakers and launched new models: Skoda Felicia in 1994 and Dacia Logan in 2004, some car factories abandoned their marque, example: Zastava now produce Fiat models, ZAZ now produce Daewoo models, while other car factories were simply closed: ARO, GAZ, Izh, Moskwitch.

Cars like Dacia Logan cost about 6000-8000 euro, but are still too expensive for most of Romanians, who buy used cars averaging 10 years old at 2000-3000 euro. Used cars imports from Western Europe exceed sales of new cars.

The megalithic projects of Nicolae Ceaușescu

Many foreigners associate Ceausescu with the oversized Palace of the Parliament, but in reality it is just one of the 7 megalithic buildings. 7 square kilometers were razed since 1983, 40.000 people were evicted by a single day’s notice, a lot of historical monuments were destroyed. This represents the largest peacetime destruction in the world history. Most of these projects were hit by 1989 revolution and are still unfinished today. They show the inabilities of capitalist idiots compared with communist regime. Supposedly, Ceausescu was inspired by 1971 visit in North Korea. However I studied North Korea too and I do not see much similarity in architecture of Romania.

Casa Poporului (People’s House, now Palace of the Parliament), it is also the largest government building in the world and largest building named “palace”, 270 by 240 meters, 86 meters tall, 12 floors plus 8 basement floors including nuclear bunker, it sits on a 1.8 sq km site. Construction started 1984, scheduled to be completed in 1990, but due of fall of communism, construction slowed down and was not used until 1997 when the parliament moved in it, today the basement floors are still unfinished.

Palatul Parlamentului Inside of Palace of the Parliament Casa Poporului

Casa Radio (Radio House), 200 x 145 meters, never completed. Sold in 2006 to an Israel investor who planned to demolish 70% of building and convert it in mall, offices and apartments… but the project has been abandoned due of 2008 recession.

Casa Radio

Academy House, 220 x 80 meters, located in the left side of Parliament. Opening date unknown, back side of building still not finished.

Academia Romana Academia Romana

Ministry of Defense House, 195 x 80 meters, located behind Parliament. Construction and opening date unknown.

Ministerul Apararii Nationale

Unknown-name building, left side of Defense House, 140 x 80 meters, opened in 1999 as JF Marriott Hotel.

JF Marriott Hotel

Biblioteca Nationala (National Library), 120 x 150 meters, construction started in 1986, abandoned after 1989, resumed in 2009, facades partially demolished and rebuilt with glass, making it very ugly in my opinion, and opened in 2012.

Abandoned National Library Abandoned National Library Biblioteca Nationala Biblioteca Nationala

Magazin Junior (a mall), opposite Library, 120 x 50 meters, opened in 1987 but ground floor only, closed in 1992. Rebuilt during 2000s, since 2006 it houses the Bucharest Court.

Tribunalul Bucuresti

Unirii Boulevard & Civic Centre, a luxury public housing complex build around the 7 megalithic buildings and a monumental boulevard measuring 3 km long and 90 meter wide.

Bulevardul Unirii Bulevardul Unirii
Bucharest aerial view

Centrul Cultural, a project with no info available, except what is seen from air in the center of above aerial photo: a massive foundation in the size of 230 x 150 meters. We don’t know if there was planned to be a building or an open-air plaza.

Centrul cultural

Circul Foamei, a series of identical buildings, 100 x 60 meters. Started in late 1980s and intended for food distribution, 2 of them were finished in 1989 while the others remained abandoned until 2000s when were converted in malls or demolished.

Circul Foamei din Rahova

Văcărești Park, a massive 2 sq km amusement park with a massive lake in middle of Bucharest, started in 1988, today it looks like a jungle.

Unfinished apartment buildings, construction of each block in communist times took about 1 year, so hundred of apartments blocks were caught by 1989 revolution. Some of them were turned into offices during 1990s, others were completed as residential during 2000s, but few of them remained abandoned even in 2014.

4 apartment blocks in Nerva Traian street, abandoned in 1989 and converted in office buildings
Nerva Traian blocks Nerva Traian blocks

Unfinished block in Aviatiei district
Unfinished block in Aviatiei neigborhood Unfinished block in Aviatiei neigborhood

Bucharest Metro, one of few communist projects that actually improved the standards of living. It was first planned in 1938 during King’s regime, scrapped due of WW2, started in 1975 by Ceausescu’s regime, scheduled to be completed in 2000, with 8 lines totaling ~100 km. First line opened in 1979 and reached 55 km on 3 lines at the time of revolution. From 1990 to 2010 the capitalist regime managed to finish and open additional 8 km of the lines started by communism regime, so never mind about starting new lines.

Cernavoda nuclear power plant, started in early 1980s and planned with 5 reactors, to date only 2 reactors have been completed (first in 1996 and second in 2007), producing 18% of national energy consumption.

Danube – Black Sea Canal, 95 km long, 90 m wide, 7 m deep, started in 1973 completed in 1984, north branch in 1987, today it is viewed as unnecessary projects because based on its current revenues, several hundred years are necessary to recover investment.

Danube – Bucharest Canal, 73 km long, designed to make the capital city also a river port, it was started in 1986 and was 60% completed in 1990 when it was abandoned.

Housing in Russia

Private home ownership was abolished in Soviet Union in 1918 and all owners became tenants. People who owned too large houses or apartments received new tenants sharing space and facilities.

Very interesting are the Soviet pre-war public housing, massive buildings full of ornaments, offering “luxury” communal apartments with up to 10 rooms, each room having 15-25 square meters and 3-3.5 meter ceiling height. Original idea was to give 1 or 2 rooms for each family, the minimum area was 5 sqm per person or if this rule was exceeded they could apply for a new home, but due of high rate of migration towards cities and low construction ratio, the waiting list became long as 10 years, 2 families had to share each room, dividing it with wood walls and building lofts in the high ceiling. In some cases a 150-200 sqm apartment housed 50 people sharing a single kitchen and one or two bathrooms.

A good educational website, with video tours, about communal living in Russia: http://kommunalka.colgate.edu.

Living conditions are probably unimaginable for today people, but residents having water and electricity, uncommon in 1920s Russia, were happy, and the communal living gave a sense of security. In 1953 Soviet Union switched on low-cost blocks with single-family apartments to reduce housing shortage and to improve privacy, from 1960s the blocks used prefabricated panels. Some residents were again happy to have own kitchen and bathroom, but some see the new blocks ugly and claustrophobic and even today they enjoy living in these pre-war communal apartments.

Pre-war public housing

Soviet Union feature the most massive apartment buildings in the world, most blocks being 100-200 meters long, but some over 500 meters long, most with 8 or 16 stories and very big spaces between them… but, the paradox: despite of being the biggest country in the world, Soviet Union did not enlarged apartments over years and the average remained around 50 sqm even in 1980s (source), smallest apartments in communist world.

Sankt Petersburg Moskow apartment blocks

Seems that post-communist Russia keep demolishing houses to built apartment towns, example Chelyabinsk 55.19030N 61.27660E, photo below. Proof: open it in Google Earth (not Google Maps) and go to View > Historical Imagery, it is build between 2007 and 2010 images, it looks like communist panel blocks, just that is better coloured. Does anyone know if these are public housing or privately built?

Chelyabinsk Beautiful apartment in Kiew
Point mouse cursor on photos to see place name!

A city interesting to study is Prypiat, the main city feeding workers to Chernobyl Power Plant. A city that had around 50,000 people in 1986 and now have 0. It is one of the greenest cities in the world.

Pripyat, Chernobyl abandoned town

Housing in other Eastern Bloc countries

Eastern Bloc housing and living conditions are similar across all countries, just very small differences: countries closer to Central Europe have bigger proportions of 3-room and 4-room. Czechoslovakia have biggest apartments (average 75 sqm), followed by Hungary (average 70 sqm).

Hungary is the only country where I found statistics, according Wikipedia, at 2011 census were 829,177 apartments, housing 17.5% of country population, 7.1% one-bedroom, 50.8% two-bedroom, 33.4% three-bedroom, 9.4% four bedroom. There’s possible to be wrong translation and they meant ROOM and not BEDROOM. I don’t think that there are 33.4% three-bedroom when in Romania are less than 10%.

Tallest communist panel block is Magasház, Pécs, 25 floors (20 residential floors), it is also tallest unused building in Europe, it has been evacuated in 1989 due of structural problems. Followed by Block 1V – Mladost, Sofia, 24 floors. Tallest in Romania are 18 floors.

Most communist apartment blocks in Eastern Block were designed to withstand 50 years. Since mass housing construction began in 1960s, more and more blocks will reach their lifetime in the next decade, and the country economies are not powerful enough to replace them. This could lead to a big disaster, especially in Romania which experience earthquakes of 7 – 7.7 grades Richter every 30-40 years. Last earthquakes were in 1908, 1940 (300 deaths), 1977 (1600 deaths). 40 years passed since last earthquake so we should expect anytime a new earthquake and the age of blocks will surely cause few thousand of deaths! First earthquake laws appeared in 1963, all buildings were designed to withstand 8 grade earthquakes, but nobody knows how many are still able to withstand today, after numerous illegal modifications made after fall of communism, especially in buildings with shops at ground floor. More worse, the new, post-communist buildings may be not even designed to withstand earthquakes, today nobody inspect them and the laws are meant to be broken. In Bucuresti alone, over 300 inspected buildings, mostly pre-war, were classified as risk of collapse in case of earthquake, nobody knows how many buildings risk to collapse but never inspected. Since 2004 to 2012, only 12 were seismic retrofit.

Prefab blocks proved their robustness at Romania earthquakes, but they are vulnerable in case of gas explosions which leads to chain collapse. The Ronan Point collapse in 1968 put an end of high-rise public housing in United Kingdom, but in Communist side panel blocks were introduced during 1960s and built until fall of communism. A block collapsed in Astrakhan, Russia in 2012: video 1 (after explosion) and video 2 (total collapse few minutes later), SHOCKING!

2 comments

  1. Powerteamforeclosures.Com

    Hello there, I hopped over to your article via Reddit. Not some thing I usually read, however I really enjoy your perspectives nonetheless. Thanks for generating some thing worthy of reading!

  2. Xi Heung-foo

    Its not hard at all to believe you are Romanian.

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