The Soviet Union collapsed nearly two decades ago, yet in Moscow the habit of central planning dies hard. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a speech two years ago, bemoaned the fact that 77 percent of the country's 142 million citizens live "cooped up" in apartment blocks. Now his government has a plan to liberate them, amassing almost 2.5 million acres to seed the land with single-family homes. "Call it the Russian dream," says Alexander A. Braverman, who runs the Federal Fund for the Promotion of Housing Construction Development, which Medvedev created. "I think we can make this dream come true."
As the U.S. struggles to recover from the housing bust, some economists are reconsidering the soundness of policies that promote homeownership. Russia's leaders aren't worried. After visiting a newly completed development of prefabricated houses on the outskirts of St. Petersburg in November, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he hoped homeownership will inspire Russians "to have more babies."