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ONLY 20 KHRUSHOVKAS ARE PLANNED TO REPAIRED IN 2014

Giorgi Parkosadze

The walls on the first floor are warped and cracked, and the window frames are deformed. They were built cheaply, quickly, and with poor quality.

For now this building has only two entrances. According to Lela Maghradze, the chairman of the neighborhood building fellowship who has lived

in the building for 24 years, a section of the building was dismantled eight years ago because it became extremely dangerous to live in. Sixteen families were evicted, and the families who are left are living in permanent danger.

 “I have written lots of letters to City Council,” Maghradze says. “They direct me to City Hall, and in City Hall they say: ‘we have no budget for it. Maybe next year.’ ”

She says she the building foundation has shifted, and there are problems with water supply and the sewage system. The roof leaks: "If it is raining, they are running around with wash bowls on the top floor, because it is just like it is raining inside the building.”

Her neighbor Koba says that before each election candidates make lots of promises, but after they are elected, they do nothing effective to solve the problem. Lots of so-called investors seemed to be interested in this building, but none of them started a real project. “We don’t demand much from (local) officials.  Just safe living conditions,” he said.

The buildings are named for Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev, who ordered a new wave of massive urban development in the Soviet Union. Architect Vitaly Lagutenko designed the buildings to be mainly five floors, and quick, cheap and easy to build. In Moscow alone,64,000 buildings (3 million square meters) were built in the 1960s.

Besik Gazdeliani, the local district governor, says there is little money for repairs. He says they can only spend about 15,000 lari ($8,500) on each of the buildings. For heavily damaged buildings, he says it is meaningless to repair a roof or make other basic repairs.

 According to the 2014 Tbilisi city budget, 41 million lari (about $23 million) are to spent on repairing damaged buildings in the city for nearly 80 buildings, among them – 20 khrushovkas.

There are more than 500 khrushovkas in Tbilisi. They are not all seriously damaged, but after 60 years most need repairs. Several previous governments announced projects to demolish khrushovkas and erect new buildings, but these plans were never executed.

It happened again this year. On March 10, the head of City Council Irakli Shikhiashvili presented a memorandum signed with the Arabian investment holding Equity International LLCto replace damaged buildings, including the khrushovkas. There were some discussions for a couple of weeks, but now there is no comment from Shikhiashvili on the proposal.

Irakli Rostomashvili, a former Chief Architect of Tbilisi, says it is difficult to comment on the project without knowing more details and analyzing them. But he says it is not rational to try arranging such projects too quickly, without appropriate studying and planning.

He does not consider the khrushovkas as the worst housing problem in Tbilisi. He estimates that khrushovkas account for only 4-5% of living space in the city, while there are buildings in the Old City and others with architectural heritage that need even more funding. According to Rostomashvili, an overall city development plan is needed which would organize projects for the next 25 years.

“A development plan is a diagnosis of a city,” he says.