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July 23, 2019
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Czech Govt will not draft social housing law or anti-poverty measures

18.2.2019 9:05
Czech PM Andrej Babiš (PHOTO: Government of the Czech Republic)
Czech PM Andrej Babiš (PHOTO: Government of the Czech Republic)

One-third of the 15 planned measures through which the Czech Government previously said it wanted to combat poverty and social inclusion will apparently not be worked on by the ministries. The intentions have either been backed away from by the administration or their financing is not clear.

Those are the findings of a report on the fulfillment of the 15 initiatives for combating poverty that has been made available to the Czech News Agency. Ten of the steps are still being worked on.

Among the steps that are being taken are changes to housing benefit subsidies and the opportunity to take advantage of public benefit jobs on a long-term basis. On the other hand, the rules governing compulsory school attendance or reporting one's actual place of residence will not change.

The report is being submitted by the Labor Ministry, which compiled the list of 15 initiatives five months ago after meeting with mayors, ministers, MPs, and representatives of organizations aiding people in need. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) announced after that meeting that his Government would not be drafting the promised social housing law and instead would be launching an investment program to build apartment units.

Labor Minister Jana Maláčová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) mentioned the 15 measures at that same time. Both the PM and the Labor Minister spoke of the necessity to "turn around the trafficking in poverty and the lowlife" who charge exorbitant rents for substandard housing.

Four of the 15 measures on the list have fallen by the wayside and one is uncertain. Of the 10 proposals that are planned, one involves tightening the rules for the renting of more than one apartment unit, which could become a licensed trade for the first time.

An amendment to the Trade Act is meant to regulate that process. The deadline for submitting it has yet to be announced.

Housing benefits and housing supplements could soon be combined into a single welfare benefit. Amendments to that effect to the laws on aid to those in material distress and social support are meant to be submitted by the Labor Ministry this spring.

Such adjustments to welfare benefits were already planned by the Labor Minister in the first Babiš Government, Jaroslava Němcová (ANO). She proposed addressing the situation of impoverished persons in ghettos mainly by significantly lowering the value of the welfare benefits paid to tenants of residential hotels and by making the terms under which people qualify for the benefits more exacting.

Price maps showing local customary rents should be newly used for establishing the amount of housing benefits to be awarded localy. Those maps should be ready this month.

The original initiative to buy out and repair buildings that have been devastated by neglect has now been replaced on the list by the Construction program, which offers subsidies for municipalities to acquire apartment units. The Regional Development Ministry plans to launch it in April.

"The framework allocation for the year 2019 is one billion crowns [EUR 40 million], or rather 650 million crowns [EUR 25 million] for social apartments and 350 million crowns [EUR 15 million] for affordable apartments," the report states. Regional Development Minister Klára Dostálová (ANO) spoke of spending two billion crowns [EUR 80 million] last year.

A drafted amendment about employment should facilitate the long-term use of public benefit jobs that are currently time-bound. The measure is meant to ensure "that all who are capable of working actually do so".

The ministries have not reached agreement on financing the beefing up of prevention work or social work meant to contribute toward clients improving their work habits, maintaining their housing, or accessing education. The Education Ministry will not be drafting changes to the compulsory school attendance regulations which, according to the proposal, were meant to extend such attendance until pupils either acquire a vocational certificate or complete their education some other way.

The aim of that measure was to limit the number of pupils who fail to complete their compulsory education. The measures also included arranging for the rules on neighborly co-existence and nighttime quiet to be more enforceable, or requiring people to report on their permanent and temporary residences according to their actual place of residence.

No work will be done on those measures now. Some of the proposals from the 15-point list were previously discussed by the Government of Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD).

Some of the same measures were proposed by the then-Human Rights Minister, Jiří Dienstbier, and by Labor Minister Michaela Marksová (both ČSSD). The then-cabinet of ANO, the Christian Democrats and the ČSSD did not see through the proposed adjustments.

According to experts on social issues and representatives of organizations aiding the needy, several of the measures will not be enough to fully resolve the situations of people in need and similar lists of steps will not aid them in the future either. Experts instead believe it is necessary to create a housing system.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Legislativa, Sociální vyloučení, Vláda, Zákon o sociálním bydlení



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