Czech town commissions construction of controversial modular housing units for Romani area, council meeting described to ROMEA TV by local assembly member
The Czech town of Most has announced its commission of the construction of a modular apartment building at the Chanov housing estate. The beginning of work on the construction site for a building with 18 units is meant to be May of this year.
Those interested in bidding are able to submit their offers until 1 April and the cost of the bid will decide the winner. The estimated value of the commission is just shy of CZK 30 million [EUR 1 million] before VAT.
The town's social affairs department will be in charge of choosing the tenants for the new units. The muncipal leadership considers modular housing a better solution than repair of the existing housing blocks.
Several local assembly members in the opposition do not share the leadership's opinion, however. "We still believe that with the aid of subsidies it would be possible to reconstruct the existing housing blocks, which would save the town a great deal of money that will now be invested in the amount of roughly CZK 1.5 million [EUR 57,500] per family into the 'container' housing," said opposition local assembly member Jan Hrubeš (Pirates and Greens for Most).
The town says that it wants to present the project to the Chanov residents once the pandemic situation allows for an in-person meeting. During the week of 8 March it was presented at the town hall just for a small circle of invitees.
"Those present for the discussion were the mayor, the vice-mayor and about eight local assembly members altogether, I guess. The press department of the town hall was also present and documented the entire event, which is curious if it was meant to be a work meeting," local assembly member Adam Komenda told ROMEA TV.
"It is also odd that journalists were not allowed to enter the hall when representatives of the town's press department were allowed in," Komenda said, adding that architects and two representatives of the housing estate also attended the meeting who are members of the Aver Roma Chanov association. Ján Chromý, a well-known activist who has long spoken against the "container" housing, was not invited.
According to Komenda, there was no agreement reached at the meeting as to whom the "containers" are basically meant to house. The original intention had been that they would house the residents of Building 3 at Chanov, which was demolished last year, but those people are already living elsewhere, so that intention no longer applies and the town says it wants to take advantage of the new units for the inhabitants of other buildings at Chanov that are slated for demolition.
Among local residents, however, the concern is dominant that the town will relocate the inhabitants of other excluded localities around Most into the "containers". The meeting reportedly also discussed the above-mentioned option of reconstructing existing buildings that have been damaged and of involving locals in the work, as was previously successfully undertaken in 2012, but the town rejected that idea, saying it would cost much more.
According to Komenda, however, the town did not submit any calculations to document that claim. Mayor Jan Paprega (ProMOST) had explained the "container" housing plan to the media on 10 March as follows: "This is not about expanding a socially excluded locality, in short, we want to replace the capacity that we should not be using with capacity that will correspond to modern trends and public health standards,"
The appropriateness of such "container" type housing for permanent residency has long been the subject of discussion in the Czech Republic. According to architect Vojtěch Sigmund, such housing is inappropriate for regular use.
"These are building cells that are used on construction sites and are appropriate for short-term housing, but they decidedly are not appropriate for long-term housing," Sigmund said in an interview for ROMEA TV, adding that the inhabitants who already live in such constructions report that they are damp and mold-infested because they are not designed to be ventilated. The planned construction was also previously criticized by the former Czech Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová.
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