Hostel Hostile

Sign for the Squat Art Hostel in central Petersburg. According to an article in the March 2, 2015, issue of Ekspert Severo-Zapad, the city had between 1,250 and 1,270 budget accommodations, including 270 hostels.
Sign for the Squat Art Hostel in central Petersburg. According to an article in the March 2, 2015, issue of Ekspert Severo-Zapad magazine, the city had between 1,250 and 1,270 budget accommodations, including 270 hostels. As of today’s writing, Airbnb listed over 300 rentals in the city. Photo by the Russian Reader

MPs Plan to Evict Hostels from Apartments
But entrepreneurs don’t intend to pull up stakes yet 
Elena Gorelova
Vedomosti
May 12, 2016

At its Friday session [Friday, May 13, 2016], the State Duma will consider a bill that could ban Russian hoteliers from housing hostels in apartment buildings. Galina Khovanskaya, chair of the Duma’s committee on housing and communal services, had tabled the amendment back in September 2015. According to MPs, mini hotels violate the rights of residents in adjacent apartments. If the changes take effect, it will be possible to install hotels in residential buildings only after rezoning the spaces from residential to non-residential. Mini hotels will have to be equipped with soundproofing, fire safety equipment, and security alarms. They will have to be located on the first floor and have a separate entrance.

The ban would have a catastrophic impact on hosteliers, argues Yevgeny Nasonov, chair of the committee on budget accommodations at the Moscow branch of Opora Russia and general director of Clover, a network of hostels. A study conducted by the League of Hostels in December 2015 showed that around 80% of Moscow’s mini hotels and serviced apartments are located in the city’s residential housing stock. In Petersburg, Crimea, and Krasnodar Territory, those percentages are even higher.

From 2012 to 2014, mini hotels were most often opened in residential buildings, says Roman Sabirzhanov, who owns sixteen hostels, including the Fabrika and the Croissant. But residents dissatisfied with their new neighbors then began complaining and showered the prosecutor’s office with lawsuits. Seeing the risks of doing business in residential buildings, Sabirzhanov opened his own hostels in non-residential buildings from the very beginning. It is not always more expensive, he claims. For example, Sabirzhanov has invested 3.5 million rubles [approx. 47,000 euros—TRR] in a new, 225-square-meter hostel on Chistye Prudy. 40% of the money went for rent; 40%, on repairs; and the remaining 20% on obtaining permits and undergoing classification. As of July 1, 2016, all hotels must be classified, receiving from one to five star, while hostels will receive the the no-stars category.

Even if the bill is not passed into law, hostels in residential buildings will be banned sooner or later, Sabirzhanov believes. At the moment, big cities are in the process of being purged of dubious flophouses in the run-up to the 2018 World Football Cup, and hostels have been subjected to more frequent inspections, he says. Even normal hotels might get the axe, the hotelier is convinced. Over the past five years, the number of beds in discount hotels and serviced apartments has grown twentyfold in Moscow, and the major hotel chains that have been lobbying the ban on hostels are not pleased with this redivision of the market, Sabirzhanov claims. He advises hoteliers against making hasty decisions. For the time being, he says, they should operate as they have before, recoup their investments, clean up their premises, and settle conflicts with building residents. At the same time, however, they should think about relocating if they have the means, launching a new hostel in a non-residential space, and going through classification. In the end, you can close the hostel and put the apartment up for rent, says Pavel Gorbov, executive director of Re:Sale Expert.

Launching a small hostel in Moscow runs you approximately two million rubles, estimates Nasonov. But rezoning a space as non-residential is quite expensive for small businesses. Nasonov cites the example of an entrepreneur he knows who has been attempting to build a separate entrance for a store in a residential building near Vykhino subway station. (The procedure for obtaining permissions is the same as for hostels.) He has already spent 1.5 million rubles on construction.

Translated by the Russian Reader.

2 thoughts on “Hostel Hostile

  1. The hostels I’ve stayed in (St. Petersburg) are not a nuisance to the other residential occupants, as
    far as I know, But they will be caught up in this crackdown. Perhaps the end of cheap accommodations
    in Russia, for foreigners and lots of Russian students.

    1. How would know whether they’re a nuisance or not? We had a flat one floor below where the owner never lived. He only rented it to foreigners, out-of-towners, and young people wanting to have a party they couldn’t have in their own flat. Mostly, the people who rented this flat were quiet, but several times the guests were so out of control we either had to call the owner or go down there ourselves and read them the riot act. In another stairwell of our building, someone bought up the rooms in a communal flat and opened a “mini-hotel” or something of the sort. It was such an annoyance to the neighbors that they sued the owner in court and won. The owner was forced to close the hotel and sell the flat to someone else. As for the crackdown, this article was published three years ago. I think the authorities backed off. By the way, Russian students don’t live in hostels: that would be too expensive. They lived either in dormitories or rented rooms and flats. As for foreigners, ordinary Russians, who are more often than not poor themselves, and whose flats are often their only source of both financial security (they can sell them if push comes to shove) and peace and quiet, are not obliged to ruin their own lives so that foreigners can find cheap accommodation. The problem is that hoteliers don’t want to build and open low-end hotels. They live under the illusion, shared by many ordinary Russians, that all foreigners are rich.

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