When forest fires left more than two thousand Russian citizens homeless this past summer, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promise that new houses would be built to replace those lost. Moreover, he would personally monitor the construction by webcam to prevent any possible abuses.
While the houses appeared beautiful and modern at first glance, it has now become clear that they are entirely unfit to live in. According to a report by Moskovsky Komsomolets, their newly-relocated residents are suffering from intolerable cold and other consequences of shoddy construction.
One such resident, Anna Yegorovna, explained that her new home in the village of Beloomut was all but falling apart. Seams in the ceiling were never sealed, baseboards are detaching from the walls, floors are lumpy, windowsills are warped, and wind blows through the house with ease. To top it off, the basement is brimming with water.
“My house came with a pool,” Yegorovna joked. “When I moved in, the water was nearly up to the ceiling. I called some plumbers and they bailed out seventy-five pailfuls. I paid them two thousand [rubles]. When I opened the hatch a week later, the water was back at the top.”
“And it’s so chilly in the bath! I washed in there once and just froze,” she added.
Yegorovna’s case was not an isolated one. In Verkhnyaya Vereya near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, homeowner Lidiya Petrovna said her house was clearly unfit for Russia’s brutal winters. “The houses on our street were built with some kind of special technology; they were stuffed with insulation, but they don’t keep in the heat – our walls are just ice. Right now it’s 18 degrees (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit), but that’s because the sun is shining through the window and has warmed it up a little,” she told Izvestia.
The situation is no better in Vatagino. Houses in that village were outfitted with electronic radiators that cost the owners upwards of $100 a month to operate. If the units are shut off, the houses immediately become too cold to bear. In one house, residents resorted to installing an awkward wood stove.
“We’ve been heating this for now. They promised to bring us firewood. They promised to bring us 75 cubic meters of firewood, so we’re keeping it heated for now…” resident Anna Ponomareva opened a door to reveal the pile of wood used to heat the house. “This is just what’s left of my burned-down fence.”
Village residents have filed complaints about the state of their homes with the local general prosecutor’s office, and in the meantime are attempting to insulate the buildings by themselves.
Vatagino Deputy Prosecutor General Nadezhda Kosareva was sympathetic to the complaints.
“We are going to investigate the legality of how the allocated money was spent. To this end we have recruited specialists from Rospotrebnadzor and the housing inspection agency to determine the causes of this tragedy,” she said. “And it really is a tragedy, because it isn’t possible to live in these houses.”
Not everyone agrees. One regional official said the fire victims were simply asking too much.
“The demands residents are making are too great – to heat the house from the outside, to change the flooring. But the deadlines were all the same – have the houses at a preliminary stage of completion by October 20, and be well enough to pass the housing inspection by November 1,” he told Channel Five. “Well, of course, they didn’t do it in time.”
Watch footage of the poorly constructed homes: