Șoseaua Antiaeriană, bulevardul Ghencea, străzile Panterelor și Tămășoaia
The Ghencea plot was built by the Municipal Council, for its own employees
The approval history
In 1929, twenty years after the establishment of the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing, public institutions and the municipality of Bucharest had lost confidence in the capacity of this institution to solve the housing crisis in Bucharest. Between 1910 and 1929, the Company had only built 2,000 homes, at a rate of 100 homes per year. In the same interval, the population of Bucharest had doubled, reaching 600,000 inhabitants. Therefore, the authorities looked for other solutions to solve the issue, such as giving plots of land to clerks on the outskirts of the city (Băneasa, Dămăroaia, Chitila) and setting up the Autonomous Construction Company. In this context, the Bucharest City Hall starts the construction of a lotissement for workers and low level clerks, in order to solve this problem.
Timeline of the approval
This initiative belonged to the new mayor, Dem Dobrescu, who is in the first year of his second term (after the one in 1912). The land chosen by the General Council and the mayor was in the Ghencea neighborhood, at the intersection of 13 September Road with Drumul Sarii and Petre Ispirescu streets (today, Antiaeriană), near the Ottoman cemetery (today, the Ghencea Civil Cemetery). The designers opened three streets, between Antiaeriană street and Ghencea boulevard, today called Tămășoaia, Panterei and Vâlcele, where they built 50 “popular” dwellings. Forty of these were with two rooms and a kitchen (initially for the workers) and ten four-room dwellings, a kitchen, a cellar and a laundry room, for the intellectuals.
The laying of the foundation stone of the new dwellings took place on September 22, 1929, and their construction was finished in the spring of 1930. In December 1929, the mayor organized a partial inauguration, and Realitatea Ilustrată (The Illustrated Reality) presented -at length- aspects of its reception. The editors of the article placed the construction of these houses against the backdrop of the housing crisis, in contrast to the previous initiatives: “a real miracle happened at one of the outskirts of our metropolis by rapidly building a model cheap housing district for workers, small officials and intellectuals, thanks to the wonderful initiative taken by Mr. Mayor Dem Dobrescu. […] The authorities called upon to take care of this kind of work have come out of their traditional idleness and started work.” Moreover, the editors emphasized the importance of distributing these houses to the vulnerable classes and praised the initiative of the mayor, who, “realizing that there is a housing crisis only for the truly in need, who for various reasons of economic nature do not have the capacity to pay according to the demanding rents downtown, proceeded to the construction of small houses, solidly made and judiciously divided, seeking to satisfy the demands for comfort and hygiene, absolutely indispensable to any civilized person. ” The article also underlined the fact that the mayor was helped by Councilor B. Magder (“who in a very short time indicated the possibilities and practical solutions for this fortunate kickoff”) and also noted the architect who was in charge of designing the houses and supervising the work, I. Bozianu. The City Hall entrusted the work to the engineer G. Marguliu, “who, through a perfect technical and modern organization, managed in a short time to finalize the building of this neighborhood.” The design of dwellings-surrounded by gardens- represented a continuation of the ideal of living in Bucharest, but also a critique of the difficult living conditions of that time: “a modest, hygienic and cheap dwelling, framed in a set of gardens, – true harbingers of health – and with convenient means of construction, this is what is missing for the middle and low income class in our capital. These neighborhoods can be created in the current outskirts of Bucharest, which are shameful and hideous pictures of the capital and which have uncomfortable houses surrounded by endless free spaces, covered in garbage.”
Criticism towards the lotissement
The praises of the press were not shared by some reformers, skeptical of the mayor’s initiative. For example, the municipal councilor M. Șeinescu disavowed Dobrescu’s policy to build houses in Ghencea without the support of the Municipal Company for Low Cost Housing, seeing them as expensive as the ones built by the Company. The prices of the houses in Ghencea ranged between 195,000 and 450,000 (without the price of the land) and this initiative led to the construction of only 60 homes. By calculating the price of the land, the houses reached the same prices as the Company proposed for their own houses. Moreover, Șeinescu claimed that the Municipal Company built one hundred houses per year, while the city hall had only built sixty in three years, demonstrating to Dobrescu the difficulty of any similar process. Discussions continued without either side being convinced by the arguments of the other. Dobrescu argued that “as long as the slums are full of horrific hovels, in which children suffer, the Municipality is due to provide in the new budget, not 12 million [the amount forecasted for these houses], but 120 million for this work.” Funds that the City Hall did not have.
Housing prices were fixed, about 200,000 lei for two-room homes and 400,000 lei for four-room homes and could be purchased in installments. Specifically, the houses could be rented for 15 years at a rate of 13,000 per year for the small ones and 27,000 for the big ones and they would come into full ownership only after paying the installments in full. The salaries of that date varied by quite a lot, and, in the absence of a list of the first inhabitants of the houses, it is difficult to estimate how easily they could be paid. In 1930, City Hall clerks had monthly salaries ranging from 1600 to 11,000 lei, and monthly rates seemed to be advantageous. However, in 1932, the beneficiaries requested a recalculation of these rates over a period of 20 years.
More than 1000 purchase requests came to the address of the Municipality after the construction of these houses, and their distribution aroused controversy. Some counselors considered that the beneficiaries should be randomly drawn, Councilor V. Serdaru considered that the mayor had to make the distribution directly, others considered that “any judgment can give rise to suspicions and therefore we are of the opinion that all the lots should be assigned randomly and that it is good to publicly announce that there is a commission that will examine the applications of those who want the properties and show the conditions that the applicants must meet.” In both cases, the distribution was to be finalized by April 23, 1930, on St. George’s Day, the traditional date of signing the rental contracts in Bucharest. In December 1932, Dem Dobrescu appointed a delegate for this lotissement, namely Paul Mihăilescu, “to take good care of the Ghencea neighborhood of low cost houses.” The initial distribution of 1930 did only last until 1937, when the Communal Monitor stated that “some of the tenants of these buildings gave up on using them, and the General Council delegation decided that these buildings should be assigned only to the communal clerks.” Soon, the Municipality decided to evacuate all the inhabitants and to distribute the houses only to the communal officials.
According to interviews with the current residents, the lotissement was close to being demolished in the eighties for the widening of the Antiaeriană Street. Today, only a few houses retain their original architecture, with tile roofing, brick chimneys and wood carpentry, the rest having been renovated with modern materials. The lotissement is not classified on the List of Historical Monuments.