Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister proposes "expropriating" residential hotels after housing benefit-free zones declared unconstitutional
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) told journalists yesterday that she is proposing the state undertake the fast solution of expropriating privately-owned residential hotels serving the impoverished who use welfare benefits to afford such accommodation now that the country's "housing benefit-free zones" have been abolished. She was responding to the Czech Constitutional Court decision abolishing that part of the law on aid to those in material distress.
According to the controversial regulation, town halls were able to designate zones on their territories where new applicants for housing benefits would automatically be considered ineligible. This means those seeking benefits then had no choice but to relocate to a place where the benefits would be allowed.
According to experts on social issues, a social housing program would solve these situations. The minister told the press yesterday that "I am convinced that a fast, proper and systemic solution to today's decision would be the opportunity for the state to expropriate such properties, for remuneration. Properties where many residents draw housing benefits. I believe that would actually be a systemic measure."
The minister said there are currently 100 "housing benefit-free zones" throughout the Czech Republic. They cover 81 residential hotels, 34 of which are in the Moravian-Silesian Region and 14 of which are in the Ústecký Region.
Maláčová said she believes "dishonest residential hotel owners are our common enemy", because they attract people facing adversity to live together in the same location. "The opportunity to expropriate them is the equivalent of basically stopping trafficking in poverty," she said.
The minister has assured those towns that have instituted such zones that her ministry will seek a solution for them. She named towns such as Český Krumlov, Děčín, Kadaň, Karviná, Kladno and Sokolov as places that will have to readjust now.
A group of senators turned to the Constitutional Court in 2017 over the zones. Experts in social issues have criticized the opportunity for areas to be established where housing benefits could not be disbursed.
Those experts welcome the judges' decision. They consider the main problem in the Czech Republic to be the unaffordability of housing and the lack of social housing altogether.
The Government of Czech Prime Minister Babiš (ANO) promised to enact a law on social housing in its program declaration. Shortly after taking power, the administration reneged on that promise.
Instead, 15 measures to combat poverty were planned by the cabinet. According to the Labor and Social Affairs Minister, neither the design nor the execution of those measures ever made any progress.
"Unfortunately, our colleagues from ANO never perceived that as their priority," the minister said. In her view, the problem has to be solved by the Government and the Prime Minister, and the approach taken must be a coordinated one.
Maláčová mentioned that maps of housing costs have yet to be developed, as have hygiene standards for apartment units, the regulation of apartment rentals, and the weak enforceability of the law when addressing misdemeanors or education. "The main reason, the alpha and omega, is the unaffordablity of housing," she said.
"That means the Ministry for Regional Development has been inactive," the Social Democratic minister alleged. The governing ANO movement has been in charge of the Ministry for Regional Development.
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