Friday, April 10, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Immigration, Economic Crisis Creating ‘Harlems’ in Moscow, Study Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 10 – The influx of migrant workers into Moscow and the more rapid decline in housing prices in poorer neighborhoods as compared falloffs in wealthier ones are combining to produce “Harlems” in the Russian capital which native Muscovites generally try to avoid, according to Russian firm which analyses real estate values.
The MneDa company, whose conclusions were reported this week by Pavel Ogorodnikov in “Vzglyad,” says that while the economic crisis has depressed housing prices levels in every sector of the economy, it has had a greater impact on them in percentage terms in poorer neighborhoods (
That has meant, the company concluded, that Moscow “is finally being divided into good districts ‘for the rich’ and not so good ones ‘for the poor,’” and this socio-economic divide will continue even when the economy improves because housing in the former areas will become more expensive even as that in the poorer areas continues to become less expensive.
The company’s experts, “Vzglyad” reported, divided up the city into 241 areas and rated each of them in terms of 50 different measures ranging from personal comfort and the of life to infrastructure to availability of transportation and closeness to industrial facilities and open markets.
Districts classed as less favorable by the firm, the newspaper said, were those where immigrants form a large an increasing fraction of the population, where crime is higher, where amenities are fewer, and where there is less potential for the development of better housing in the future.
Among the districts in this category, which “soon can be transformed into Moscow ghettoes or ‘Harlems’ are the areas between Dmitrov and Korovin chausses, the areas along Yaroslav chaussee, Golyanovo, Metrogorodk, and Northern Ismailovo, Tektstilshchiki, Vykhino, Veshnyaki, Kozhukhov, Zhulebino, Biryulevo and Tsaritsyno.
All these districts, the study found were characterized by relatively great distance from the center and less favorable transportation connections, a large portion of eight to nine story Soviet-era housing, and often by the presence of major markets nearby “where representatives of the peoples of Asia and the Caucasus ‘rule.’”
These districts have seen housing price declines greater in percentage terms than those in the better off areas of the, and they have relatively poor prospects of recovery in the future, a pattern of housing costs that is likely to mean that poor people and especially migrants to the city will come to dominate them even more than at present.
Both MneDa’s staff and other real estate experts “Vzglyad” consulted said that “the tendency of transforming outlying regions of the capital city into ghettos already is taking place although [in Moscow] there are still no places where the forces of law and order are afraid to appear” except when heavily armed, as “already is the case in Paris, Brussels and Berlin.”
But the trend in that direction in the Russian capital is obvious and likely to continue, and that is one of the reasons why the Moscow city government has announced plans to compile “a map of interethnic tension.” That map, which will show where the potential for ethnic clashes is greatest, will guide the city’s placement of law enforcement personnel.
According to data collected by the Russian Center of Ethno-political and Regional Research, Moscow is already divided into regions “on an ethnic basis,” with immigrants settling near to where they work, as a rule, next to markets and major trading centers.” And as the number of immigrants increase relative to the “native” population, there are problems.
In Europe and the United States, there are already places dominated by immigrant communities, Pavel Ogorodnikov of “Vzglyad” said, where the police go only if they are heavily armed. In fact, ethnically different and unpleasant districts are becoming larger “in every capital of the world, and Moscow will not be an exception.”

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