Like certain other social benefits, housing was offered to many Soviet citizens through the enterprises and organizations where they worked (see the essay about the paternalistic state
). The quality of this "departmental" housing varied in relation to the place of a citizen in the social hierarchy: from a workers' barracks with no indoor plumbing to an individual apartment in a comfortable "Stalin-era" building. Most commonly, however, departmental housing involved a room in a dormitory or a communal apartment (see the essay "Housing in the USSR"
). Having worked a specified number of years at an enterprise, a person (or more accurately, that person's family) received the right to their work-related housing, and it was established as the family's: if the person stopped working, the housing nevertheless remained available to his or her family and descendants. Such housing could be divided up, traded, and so forth (see the essay "Property and ownership"
With the end of the Soviet system, the number of workplace housing units has declined. Many apartments have remained communal, but the buildings in which they are located now belong to the city rather than to the enterprises.
In Soviet times, many thousands of families had to be content with rooms not even in communal apartments but in workers' dormitories supplied by their employers. Such rooms were originally intended as temporary housing, but families wound up living in them for decades, and when it was possible to do so after perestroika, they privatized these rooms. As a result, many former dormitories have become communal apartments. In such places we can observe a strange combination of semi-dorm, semi-hostel existence. See the photographs of such apartments in "A column in the hallway" and "Entryway of a former dormitory"; in the second photo, we see a stairwell used for storage, drying, and other functions.