How do the spatial dynamics of the socialist city compare with those of the market city? What happens to a city when all investment decisions are made without land markets? What are the outcomes when the forces described by familiar urban models are not allowed to work? 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 Stalinera, Khrushchevera, and then Brezhnevera 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. Some conclusions are made:
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