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Czech experts disagree with residential hotels as social housing

Prague, 3.4.2013 17:00, (ROMEA)
A press conference by a group of academics and representatives of organizations serving the needy expressed disagreement with residential hotels being included as a component of social housing. (PHOTO:  ROMEA TV)
A press conference by a group of academics and representatives of organizations serving the needy expressed disagreement with residential hotels being included as a component of social housing. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

A group of academics and representatives of organizations serving the needy disagrees with including residential hotels as a component of social housing and is criticizing a recent analysis recommending such an approach. The group is also asking for a law to be adopted to ensure "affordable, non-segregated, quality housing" for the poor, according to the initiative's coordinator, Štěpán Ripka, who spoke at a press conference today.

The Czech Regional Development Ministry (MMR) commissioned the analysis, entitled "Social residential hotels as long-term housing for the socially vulnerable" ("Sociální ubytovny jako dlouhodobé bydlení pro sociálně slabé") and is planning to propose a social housing model together with the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The analysis (in Czech only) is available at http://www.romea.cz/dokumenty/B10-Zaverecna-zpr-2012.pdf 

"Residential hotels cannot be a solution for the socially vulnerable. They are, on the contrary, one of the forms of homelessness and should not be legalized," said Veronika Najvert, head of the Shelter Association of the Czech Republic (Sdružení azylových domů v ČR), who represents the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA).

According to Najvert, people end up in residential hotels because they have no other chance at finding housing. Their problems then multiply further and their impoverishment and indebtedness grows. Residential hotels were originally meant to serve as temporary accommodations, but now large families are living in them permanently. However, Najvert believes such environments are inappropriate for permanent residence, especially for children.

Critics point out that the residential hotels charge overpriced rents for unsuitable conditions. However, according to the new analysis, residential hotels might be just one component of social housing. Landlords' experiences allegedly show that some people are incapable of paying rent, maintaining order, or not bothering those around them, and such facilities would supposedly be a solution.  

The analysis claims that the stricter management regime of such facilities will prevent people from losing their housing, but the work itself is being criticized by anthropologists, representatives of organizations serving the needy, and sociologists. Anthropologist Hedvika Novotná said the authors of the analysis asked questions of only six operators of seven residential hotels which do not have problematic reputations and never interviewed their tenants. 

The head of the Social Science Department at the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Pardubice, Michal Tošner, pointed out that most of the tenants in residential hotels are Romani. "A business has developed around them in the Czech Republic. They are referred to as 'black gold'. A landlord acquires several apartments and leases them for high prices. This business is booming," Tošner said, adding that state housing benefits for the indigent flow straight to the landlords this way. 

According to another analysis published in 2011, some residential hotel operators set high rents and expect the state housing subsidy to make up the difference. Public welfare is thus being intentionally exploited. At some municipally-owned or privately-owned residential hotels the rents were 2.5  to four times higher than local market rents, according to the 2011 analysis.

The only solution, according to this initiative, is a law on social housing to define what a housing shortage is, what criteria a tenant has to meet in order to qualify for social housing, and what kinds of aid and services he or she would be entitled to. The responsibilities of municipalities and the state should also be more strictly defined. The creation of a separate law on social housing was also recently proposed by a recent analysis commissioned by the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry.

Deputy Minister for Regional Development Miroslav Kalous has previously stated that issuing a set of steps to take would be more efficient than a whole new law.  According to another ministry representative, the MMR will submit a "comprehensive solution" by the end of this year, as it has been instructed by the Government to arrange one. 

ROMEA TV IS PREPARING A VIDEO OF THE FULL PRESS CONFERENCE.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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