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July 20, 2019
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Czech city backtracks on scope of plan to house homeless, cutting the units to be offered by half

7.5.2019 7:00
A demonstration by the
A demonstration by the "We Want to Live Indoors!" (Chceme bydlet) group was held in support of the occupants of apartment buildings in Brno-Zábrdovice in 2016. (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

The Czech city of Brno wants to allocate 60 apartments for the social housing of families with minor children and individuals who are homeless, Deputy Mayor Oliver Pospíšil (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) announced to journalists on 2 May. The local assembly must still approve the measure.

If adopted, the city can then apply for a subsidy from one of two public tenders issued by the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MPSV). Almost CZK 25 million [EUR 970 000] could be made available for this purpose if their application succeeds.

Originally the city wanted to offer as many as 120 such apartments for these purposes but halved that number because of the conditions of one of the tenders. Former Deputy Mayor Matěj Hollan (Live Brno - Žít Brno) is criticizing the proposal.

Currently Brno has almost 200 such social apartments available. Projects to end homelessness were introduced by the Live Brno movement during its previous local coalition government, led by the ANO movement.

By doing so, Brno inspired other cities to apply for the MPSV subsidies. After the recent elections a new local coalition government took power in Brno, led by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which took exception to such projects for ending homelessness.

Eventually, however, the city council, comprised of ODS, the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), the Pirates and ČSSD, approved some projects for housing families and individuals in need. The MPSV money cannot be used to either equip or repair apartment units, but it can be used, for example, to hire social workers.

Brno could draw up to CZK 17 million [EUR 660 000] from one of the public tenders for 40 apartment units to be awarded to those in need, such as single mothers, senior citizens, families with minor children or young adults leaving institutional care. The city could also draw more than CZK 7 million [EUR 270 000] from a second tender for as many as 20 apartment units for homeless persons.

Originally the city wanted to apply for support for as many as 80 units from that tender. One of its conditions, however, is that 70 % of the units supported must not be situated in excluded localities, which for some reason has motivated the city to reduce the number of units it is applying for.

Brno has almost 30 000 apartments, but most are administered by the various municipal departments. Brno City Hall itself, according to Deputy Mayor Pospíšil, manages about 600 units for which there is little turnover, and the city would apparently therefore not be able to arrange for the new units to be located anywhere but in excluded localities.

The units would have to be acquired by City Hall from the municipal departments. "From past experience we know that [municipal departments] are cautious about social housing projects because of their negative influences," the Deputy Mayor said.

Ex-Deputy Mayor Hollan, however, believes offering 20 units for homeless people is not enough. "It is incomprehensible why the coalition of ODS and the Pirates is allocating just 20 units for those purposes," he said.

"This cannot be considered an actual solution to homelessness. The city makes 600 units available on an annual basis, about 170 just in the Brno-střed municipal department alone, which is also administered by ODS," the former Deputy Mayor pointed out.

"I especially cannot comprehend this from the Pirates, who at the national level are advocating the adoption of a social housing law and announced in Prague that they will resolve the homelessness of all families, but in Brno the Pirates are part of a coalition that doesn't know how to provide more than 20 units for that purpose," Hollan said. In response, Deputy Mayor Tomáš Koláčný (Pirates) said he could imagine more units for those purposes, but City Hall has to approach the issue taking the conditions of the tender into account and with the awareness that unoccupied apartments exist mainly in the municipal departments of Brno-sever and Brno-střed.

Many of those units are exactly situated in an excluded locality and the funding cannot, therefore, be used for them. However, Koláčný said he would investigate the option of allocating 50 apartments through the first tender, which does not have such a condition, instead of 40.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Housing, local authority, Local elections 2018



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