Cities Without Land Markets: Location and Land Use in the Socialist City
22 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: June 1995
The authors describe the structure of Russian cities after 70 years of Soviet development. This is the longest socialist experience on record and its results are of paramount interest to urban economists. In the absence of price signals and of economic incentives to recycle land over time, the administrative-command process has led to a startling pattern of land use. Its central feature is a perverse population density gradient, which rises as one moves away from the center of the city. (Driving from the center of Moscow, one passes through rings of Stalin-era, Krushchev-era, and then Brezhnev-era flats.) The Soviet city is also characterized by rusting factories in prime locations and high density residential areas in distant suburbs. Such a structure tends to maximize the economic and social inefficiency of the socialist city as well as its environmental ill effects. With market-oriented urban reform, real estate prices are now emerging. Their negative gradient signals again the massive scale of past land misallocation in the Soviet city. The experience of socialist cities is also a powerful warning about the ill effects of public ownership and the allocation of land to achieve the socialization of land rents.
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