Housing Problem

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Housing Problem


one of the social problems bred by capitalism, manifested as a particular form of housing need. With the growth of the urban population and the transformation of a dwelling into a commodity, there is a sharp deterioration in the working people’s living conditions and a huge rise in apartment rent. The housing problem is exacerbated under imperialism. The process of monopolization and the strengthening of the influence of bank capital, which operates in the housing economy mainly in the form of mortgage credit, cause high monopolistic prices for apartments. Only one-third of total apartment rent is expended on maintenance; the rest is used to enrich landlords, landowners, and bankers.

Although many apartments lie vacant in large capitalist cities, they are inaccessible to low-income working people in need of a dwelling because the rent is too high. Some of the people have to occupy overcrowded buildings that are barely fit to live in. For example, in the USA in the second half of the 1960’s, up to 25 percent of the urban population lived in dilapidated buildings unfit for habitation; in Great Britain the figure was 28 percent, in Japan 23 percent, and in France about 25 percent. An especially serious housing situation exists in economically underdeveloped countries. The bourgeois states exercise a certain amount of regulation over apartment rent, without encroaching on the interests of building-owning capitalists. To influence rent levels, the state itself has begun to construct “inexpensive” housing. How-ever, the amount of such construction is insignificant in most countries. The primary means by which government bodies influence the cost of construction and subsequent maintenance of housing is assistance in the financing of residential construction, but this cannot eliminate the working people’s housing needs. In the last analysis, the policy of government financing does not undermine the position of bank and building-owning capitalists, who strive to maintain a high level of apartment rents and a housing shortage.

Outlays for housing include, along with rent, expenses for communal services such as heat and lighting, which at times are even higher than rent itself. Hence the attempts by bourgeois governments to stabilize the level of apartment rents and to build low-rent housing cannot solve the housing problem as a whole for the additional reason that a large portion of the working people’s residential expenses go for communal services, which are financed by bank capital.

In a number of capitalist countries, attempts are being made to alleviate the contradictions in housing relations by selling workers small single-apartment cottages on the installment plan. But if working people who have received a house on credit are unable to make regular payments, the house as a rule is taken away and a large portion of the remitted payment is lost. In capitalist countries the construction of factory settlements in which houses are sold to workers on the installment plan is done partly for speculative pur-poses, but it has the further objective of tying workers to an enterprise.

In the USSR the liquidation of capitalist building ownership and private ownership of land and the concentration in the state’s hands of most of the country’s housing and residential construction have laid the basis for solving the housing problem. “[O]nly by abolishing private property in land and building cheap and hygienic dwellings,” V. I. Lenin wrote, “can the housing problem be solved.”(Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 159). Despite the difficult living conditions inherited from the old system, the enormous damage done to housing by the fascist German troops during the Great Patriotic War (in the cities of the USSR alone, more than 70 million sq m of living area was demolished), and the rapid growth of the urban population, the urban resident’s average living area in the USSR is almost 60 percent greater than in the prerevolutionary period. Housing in cities and urban-type settlements included 180 million sq m of total (useful) area in 1913; this had increased to 1,529,000,000 sq m in late 1970. The USSR is one of the world leaders in the scale and pace of residential construction. In 1969, 9.3 apartments per 1,000 inhabitants were built in the USSR, whereas the figure was 7.3 in the USA, 6.9 in Great Britain, and 8.7 in France. More than 2 million apartments are built annually in the USSR; yet the problem of housing remains acute. The ninth five-year plan provides for a total of 580 million sq m of new apartments.

In allocating a sizable share of public funds to the further development of residential construction, the Communist Party and the Soviet government are working to solve the housing problem in the immediate future. The Program of the CPSU in the area of raising the population’s living standard calls for providing a separate apartment with modern facilities for every family. At the present stage the majority of families are already moving into separate apartments with modern conveniences. In addition to the growth of state residential construction, cooperative housing, which is carried out through the use of funds from members of the residential cooperative, is on the increase.

Low apartment rents have been established in the USSR. Together with communal services, they average 4 percent of a family’s total expenses. Not a single capitalist country has such a low apartment rent. In such capitalist countries as the USA and Great Britain, production and clerical workers are frequently compelled to pay landlords up to 20 or 25 percent of their earnings for the use of an apartment. A large portion of the outlays for housing in the USSR is covered by public consumption funds.

In other socialist countries residential construction is also one of the state’s main concerns. In 1970 the working people of the German Democratic Republic received 76,100 new apartments; in Czechoslovakia, 125,400; in Poland, 200,400; and in Rumania, 161,000.


Engels, F. “K zhilishchnomu voprosu.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 18.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1971.
Direktivy XXIV s”ezda KPSS po piatiletnemu planu razvitiia narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR na 1971–1975 gody. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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