Thursday, June 01, 2006

The mayor and apartments

It has been noted in the press here that Chernovetsky has given up his mayor’s paycheck for it to be used to buy apartments for Kiev citizens who don’t have them. That’s a nice gesture though it will probably not amount to much given the rise in apartment prices here in the past couple of years. I don’t think the mayor gets paid all that much relatively speaking so it will be a drop in the bucket.

The other problem is that there are over 100,000 people on the government’s list to get apartments. A couple of years back we went down to the local government agency that dealt with that in the area where we lived then and saw the list. It was in the lobby, that is, the hallway leading off from the front door. (There are no lobbies here in government buildings, just hallways.) I don’t know how many names were on that list but it stretched along a long wall. There were probably a couple of thousand names on it.

But the thing we saw that didn’t look promising was that some of them had been on that list since the 1960s. This is not a good sign. It is likely that they have been passed over by other, (cough) better connected apartment-less people, but that still isn’t a good sign.

Chernovetsky says that some of those on these lists are not there legitimately. And he might be right. But in one of his weekly town hall meetings in the front of the city council building on Kreschatyk downtown a couple of weeks ago, there were a large number of people there asking for help. The number one request: Get me an apartment.

One woman at that meeting said she is living in a one room apartment with her son and his family. That puts her in the kitchen. She told Chernovetsky she sleeps in the kitchen and he, seeing that she was an older woman, suggested that she could be taken to a senior center. There were places there. It may have seemed to him a reasonable thing to say—it does solve a problem-- but it sounded heartless.

It was after that meeting that he said he would forgo his mayor’s salary so that it could be used to buy apartments. Maybe the scope of the problem sunk in afterward. But it may take his Praveks Bank earnings to make any real dent in it.

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