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Czech initiative says those in need of housing will not receive it unless law requires it

17.1.2017 8:59
Members of the Platform for Social Housing protested on 29 September 2015 in front of the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry in Prague against draft legislation proposing to reduce the amount of housing benefits paid to landlords on behalf of tenants in residential hotels, where a lack of price ceilings has created a situation in which landlords charge extortionate rents. The sign reads
Members of the Platform for Social Housing protested on 29 September 2015 in front of the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry in Prague against draft legislation proposing to reduce the amount of housing benefits paid to landlords on behalf of tenants in residential hotels, where a lack of price ceilings has created a situation in which landlords charge extortionate rents. The sign reads "Don't turn residential hotel tenants into hostages". (PHOTO: Jan Čonka, Romea.cz)

The "Have a Home" (Mít svůj domov) initiative, which brings together more than 90 organizations working in the social sphere, resolutely rejects the Czech Government's proposal not to legally require municipalities to provide social housing in the Law on Social Housing now being drafted. The initiative says that if the law does not require municipalities to provide social housing for needy groups or create some other guarantee that aid will be provided by the state to those in need of housing, most of the 200 000 people now in need of housing will not be housed.

Currently municipalities are not obligated to provide housing to all who actually need it and without a legal obligation they will not be motivated to do so. "The failure of municipalites to provide housing is one of the reasons why, in the Czech Republic, many children are taken away from their families. The fact that municipalities do not address the housing needs of at-risk families, however, is not surprising. The cost of placing children into children's homes, which is CZK 424 000 [EUR 16 000] annually per child, is borne by the state, not the municipality. From that perspective, therefore, we cannot anticipate any change will happen," explains Jan Klusáček, a researcher with the Lumos organization, which systematically focuses on care for at-risk children.

"The same applies to the cases of people living with disabilities or senior citizens. If a municipality does not arrange for social apartment units adapted to their limitations and needs, then the cost of senior living arrangements or those for persons living with disabilities will never burden local government coffers," researcher Klusáček adds.

"It is astonishing that the governing coalition has decided to adopt a law that will be based just on the voluntary involvement of municipalities when the existence of a law establishing the obligation of municipalities to provide housing for needy population groups is supported, according to public opinion polls, by 71 % of Czechs. Maybe the reason is that the Government believes this solution will 'feed the wolf but spare the goat', as the saying goes. The Government will fulfill its promise to see through the adoption of a law on social housing without anybody having to actually solve the problems of the people living in undignified conditions here," says Magdaléna Poláková from the Assistance (Asistence) organization.

"Government representatives are now saying we should pilot social housing for another four years to see whether the municipalities will want to take care of citizens in need of housing anew or not. I can responsibly say that similar pilots have already been underway here for 20 years, and so far the municipalities have, sold off their housing stock on the cheap and drawn on subsidies for social apartment units that they then offer to people who frequently do not even need them. Moreover, as the Supreme Audit Office reported during the first half of 2016, the Regional Development Ministry is incapable of controlling whether those subsides were abused or not. Given that this piloting is, in my view, condemned to failure, I consider the proposed changes to housing benefits to be an absolutely irresponsible gamble with the lives of thousands of people," says Štěpán Ripka, chair of the Platform for Social Housing.

press release of the "Have a Home" initiative, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Platforma pro sociální bydlení, sociální bydlení, zákon, Analysis



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