Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Decaying housing estates

Dictation - upper-intermediate/advanced

         Housing estates with crumbling walls, leaking roofs and broken windows are a common occurrence in the country. Some lie empty. Others are inhabited, as indicated by their façades decorated with satellite TV dishes and colourful arrays of washing.
The empty buildings are the remains of state housing projects built for employees of factories and the families of officers in military bases. When the factories and the bases shut down, the people left. Some of the blocks of flats remain empty to this day.
        Others, however, attracted destitute and homeless families, usually Gypsies. Some of the derelict apartment blocks are, theoretically, municipal property rented to poor citizens. The majority were built for the Gypsies, who were forced to settle after the 1960s. Suffering from high unemployment rates after 1989, most of the inhabitants were unable to pay their utility bills and token rent. Most city councils ignored the problem for years. The results are ghettos where poverty, crime and ethnic tensions are the norm.
      There is another type of decaying houses, which you notice because of their elaborate turn-of-the-19th Century façade. Such buildings are usually monuments of culture, and their piteous condition is entirely intentional. As a matter of course, their owners want them demolished and replaced by some flashy new business centre, yet another shopping mall, or block of flats. The only way to achieve this is to leave the building exposed to the elements and hope it collapses. To rephrase Stalin: no monument of culture, no problem. 

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