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December 8, 2021



Analysis: "Inadaptables get free apartments" - the Czech lie that kills

17.1.2017 11:50
A homeless person in the Czech Republic, 2015. (PHOTO:  bau)
A homeless person in the Czech Republic, 2015. (PHOTO: bau)

The resistance of the ANO movement, the Christian Democrats, and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic to social housing is based on fabrications that will have tangible consequences: People dying in the streets and broken families. The freezing temperatures falling to -20 C at night now are forming the backdrop to the coalition Government's tiffs over the planned law on social housing.

If everything had gone according to plan, that law would already have been in effect here for two weeks now. ANO and the Christian Democrats, however, have blocked a proposal by the Czech Social Democrats to legally require municipalities to allocate part of their housing stocks to the socially vulnerable.

Town halls have been able to establish social housing voluntarily since time immemorial, but the fact that a full 2 % of the Czech population is in need of housing indicates that local assembly members and councilors don't care. Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová came forward with a compromise before Christmas:  Municipal participation in social housing should be voluntary, but in order to at least motivate town halls to provide it, the state will provide them with money and, what's more, with the support of a new office.

Some of the coalition partners and the parliamentary opposition are continuing to fight the law. Their weapons are disinformation and hypocrisy.

There ain’t no such thing as a free apartment

For a couple of months now, the campaign against social housing has included the lie that apartments will be distributed for free to "inadaptables". This lie is disseminated, for example, by the first vice-chair of the ODS, Alexandra Udženija.

As she does so, she is coyly concealing the fact that the Prague City Council has already begun to boost the "Green/multicultural/socialist doctrine" of social housing designed by her party colleague Pavel Bém. Apparently he contracted Marxism on his trip to Nepal.

Last week Udženija was joined by the vice-chair of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) Jan Bartošek, who posted this message to Facebook:  "I reject the state allocating apartments. Anybody who has experience with paying a mortgage or rent knows that accomodation is a costly matter that must be earned."

Christian Democratic chair Pavel Bělobrádek later defended that standpoint to the ombudsman of the Green Party by quoting to her from the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. Rhetoric aside, the current bill of course does not call for social apartment units to be given to people to own, but to be provided for them to lease under strict conditions.

Yes, the rents for these units would be lower than the regular market rents, and the difference would be made up by the taxpayers. As a taxpayer, however, I welcome both the fact that this proposal would only ask us to make up the difference and the fact that the money would most frequently just be sent from one part of the public budget to another.

On the one hand, the draft law would result in a savings compared to the current situation, in which the state props up the owners of residential hotels by paying above-market rents through its housing benefits for accommodation in substandard quarters. On the other hand, the draft law would close off a way for the public budget to be tunnelled by those who have conquered this segment of the rental housing market.

When "protecting the traditional family" begins and ends with attacking Prague Pride

The discussion about social housing doesn't just afford us the opportunity to nab the creators and disseminators of such hoaxes in the act, many of whom are among the ranks of the past and present governing parties. It also gives us the opportunity to recall that ANO and KDU-ČSL function as random generators of moral panics without adhering to any coherent ideology of their own.

Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová (ANO) was one of the first to stand against the new concept for this law by alleging the Czech Republic would return "to the conditions of actual socialism" if the law were to be adopted. This is the same Karla Šlechtová who, six months ago, wanted to expropriate and nationalize the entirety of the real estate at Prague Castle, including church-owned private property there.

Now she is leading an "anti-socialist" crusade against a housing model that has functioned for decades in West European countries. For the Christian Democrats, on the other hand, "protection of the traditional family" is only interesting if they can use it to harass all the untraditional families here.

One of the most frequent reasons children are removed from their biological parents in the Czech Republic is in fact because the family has lost its housing - the most frequent reason in general is poverty overall, despite the fact that the Czech Supreme Court ruled such practices illegal six years ago. Social apartment units could keep dozens or even hundreds of families together who will fall apart without them - but the Christian Democrats have neither ears to hear nor eyes to see.

A party that has emblazoned its shield with the ideas of protecting human dignity and human life is now torpedoing a law that could reduce the numbers of people dying each winter in the streets, as they are doing right now: From Friday, 6 January 2016 to Sunday, 8 January 2016 at least six people died on the street here. Maybe not all of them would have been able to access social housing or fulfill the conditions for it.

Those lives have now ended, though, because of this dogma that housing must be earned. What, then, is to be done?

Now, in January, give anybody you see living on the street money for a hostel or book them a bed through the website of the Salvation Army. When it comes time to vote in October, remember that Jan Bartošek and Pavel Bělobrádek have now shown their true faces.

The Christian Democrats, in their campaign, will attempt to attract the idealists by using [former Czech Prime Minister] Petr Pithart, and to attract the conservatives by projecting the image of a calm force that cares about families. On the contrary: Their policies will send many more "Czech children" to foster care than the demonized Norwegian child protection service ever has.

This article was written for news server

Michal Kašpárek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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