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23 May, 2009 07:16

Home small home: big families hard up for flats

Big family – small flat. That’s the reality for many Russians who have several children.

Under Russian law, large families are entitled to assistance with accommodations. But actually getting a bigger roof over their heads can prove an impossible task.

The government recently switched to a new program of supporting large families. Anyone with five or more children can now get a cottage in one of the districts of the city. But while the help might now be there, getting it is still just as difficult.

In this Lubov Merekina, who has to live with her six children in a small one-room apartment, says she has no other choice. Lubov believes she’s just lucky she’s not homeless.

She left her job to raise her five young children – a tough task and not helped by a lack of state support.

“I have lived in Moscow since 1998, but I was only registered in the city in 2007,” said Lubov.

In Russia people have to be officially registered in the city where they live, otherwise they would not be afforded a lot of privileges that the ‘legal,' registered residents enjoy. Registration is recorded in one’s passport.

“Everything depends on the official registration. Because I didn’t have it, they wouldn't officially recognize me as a mother living in the city with three or more children, and I couldn’t receive any benefits."

So while Lubov has in fact lived in the Russian capital for eleven years, officially it’s less than two.

Vladimir Brikov, head of the Moscow Housing Policy, says that concerning the particular case of Lubov Merekina, she can make a claim for one of the cottages in some district of the city within the framework of the government’s program.

“However, under the current law, she has to be registered in Moscow or officially live in Moscow for no less than ten years”.

In Moscow alone, there are more than five thousand registered families with three or more children. Many of them are in great need of state support.

Lubov now believes a life outside of Russia could be the only way her family can live. Recently she turned to others for help.

“Some embassies that we wrote to answered us and offered several programs on how we can emigrate including a refugee program,” she says.

“For my family it’s the last chance,” she adds.

It means she sees no hope for herself for a new Moscow home for Lubov, who resigned herself to continuing to pay for her tiny apartment with her children’s welfare benefits.