President Mikhail S. Gorbachev Saturday called for the legalization of private ownership of residential lots in an attempt to solve the nation's critical shortage of housing, the Tass news agency said.
All Soviet land is now owned by the state, under one of the strongest tenets of communism. Even a recent reform legalizing some kinds of private property excluded ownership of land.Tass said Gorbachev ordered the government to come up with a housing plan by Sept. 1 that "removes the whole number of restrictions on building individual housing in the Soviet Union, grants the right to own and inherit housing and their plots."
In a presidential decree, Gorbachev called for at least 30 million new apartments and individual houses by the year 2000.
Gorbachev's decree said there have been recent positive shifts in solving the housing problems, but the problem is still acute. "Nearly 4.5 million families live in housing with less than five square meters per person," it said. Five square meters is about half the size of a small Western bedroom.
The Supreme Soviet legislature in March approved private ownership of buildings, equipment and factories. But under Gorbachev's direction, it rejected private ownership of land.