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November 13, 2019
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Controversial Czech housing estate in the hands of foreign nationals: Russians big fans of trafficking in poverty there

30.3.2018 12:45
A photograph taken of the assault on human rights activist Ondřej Cakl during the 2008 ultra-right riot at the Janov housing estate.
A photograph taken of the assault on human rights activist Ondřej Cakl during the 2008 ultra-right riot at the Janov housing estate.

Buying cheap arpartment units at the Janov housing estate has become a lucrative new enterprise for many foreign nationals. Israelis, Russians, Slovaks and Ukrainians, according to news server Seznam.cz, own more than one-third of the units in some apartment buildings there.

These foreign nationals cash in by overcharging rents to their impoverished tenants that are guaranteed to be covered by social welfare. The accumulation and rental of cheap apartment units in socially excluded localities has been benefiting both major and minor investors there for more than 10 years.

An appetite for this business in the Czech Republic has already been cultivated among foreign nationals from many countries. The Janov housing estate in Litvínov is no exception to this trend.

According to Seznam.cz, there are 79 landlords registered with the real estate office as the owners of Janov units whose permanent addresses are in Russia. For example, one of the apartment buildings has units owned by 21 Russians and one owner each from Algeria, Israel and Ukraine.

The building immediately adjacent to that one is similarly owned: 18 units held by landlords from Russia, five from Slovakia and two from Ukraine. The investment into these units is attractive despite the fact that wealthy tenants do not occupy them.

Exactly the opposite is the case as far as the tenants are concerned. For that precise reason, the state regularly makes social welfare contributions towards renting the units for eligible impoverished tenants.

News server Seznam.cz investigated the cadastral records on 29 apartment buildings at Janov and ascertained that in many of them foreign nationals own almost half of the units. Of course, none of these landlords live at the housing estate.

"During the last year I have gotten to know one such family. Otherwise I do not believe that this community exists here as a physical presence," Petr Vagaši, who once lived at Janov and who currently advises locals on how to find jobs as part of the Libuše community organization, told Seznam.cz.

"Many units were left unoccupied and could then be bought cheaply and rented to socially vulnerable citizens," Vagaši said. A local field worker with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion confirms that the Janov apartment units and tenants on welfare are a good business opportunity.

"It is decidedly a good investment opportunity for them. The apartments here sell very cheaply, is the reason. They cost CZK 200 000 [EUR 8 000] or less. Most tenants who are accommodated here are welfare beneficiaries. An apartment is rented to such tenants, for example, for CZK 10 000 [EUR 400] per month and frequently the entire amount of their housing benefit goes straight to the landlord," field social worker Markéta Fridrichová described the system.

"I am not able to say the absolute numbers, but 51 % of all housing benefits disbursed by Litvínov are delivered to the landlords of properties at Janov," Vice-Mayor Erika Sedláčková told news server Seznam.cz. According to her, the town cannot do much about the influx of foreign investors.

Vojtěch Lavička, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Housing, Roma, social housing, Sociální dávky



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