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Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry plans financing of social housing as discussion of new law proceeds

8.11.2015 1:22
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová at a press conference 17 January 2014.
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová at a press conference 17 January 2014.

The Czech Labor Ministry is counting on a big portion of the money now used for housing benefits being transferred in the future into the financing of the country's social housing system. The money should be transferred to municipalities.

Deputy Labor Minister Zuzana Jentschke Stöcklová (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) made the announcement at a session of the Social Affairs Committee of the Czech lower house on 4 November. Expenditures for such housing benefits have been rising.

Last year the Czech state disbursed more than CZK billion in contributions to housing benefits and housing subsidies. "We are counting on a big portion of that financing being transferred into the social housing system, where it will go to municipalities. They will decide where such housing will be located," the Deputy Minister said.

Stöcklová said town halls will decide whether to use the financing to build apartment units, to lease units for the needy from nonprofit organizations or private landlords, or to reconstruct existing units. She also called the current amounts of financing disbursed for accommodation in residential hotels or in some apartments offering substandard conditions exorbitant.

She also pointed out that in some facilities people have to pay disproportionately high rents. The state's expenditure on housing benefits in recent years has risen annually.

During 2012 the state paid only CZK 7.4 billion for housing benefits and housing subsidies. Roughly that same amount was disbursed this year between January and June alone.

In July this year a total of 70 300 individual housing benefit payments were disbursed, 2 400 fewer than at this time last year. The authorities also disbursed 242 100 housing subsidies this year, 8 000 more than last year.

The lower house's Social Affairs Committee met on 5 November to discuss the country's social housing concept, which was approved by the Government recently after delays. MPs from the ANO movement and the Communists are the ones that mainly have reservations about the document.

They say that municipalities themselves are against the proposed rules, that the financing of the program is not clear, and that before people are provided such aid what should be taken into consideration is whether they themselves are to blame for their own situations. According to the Deputy Minister, EU money from the Integrated Regional Operational Programme can be taken advantage of for social housing and the Czech state itself will also provide financing to the municipalities.

David Pospíšil, head of the Department of Social Services at the ministry, said the approved concept counts on adjusting the budget for the years to come. The document states that annually CZK 3 billion should flow into the social housing program.

"The Finance Ministry must follow this. The approved concept is binding on all the ministries," he noted.

He added that people in need will be aided by social workers. "Those who don't want to collaborate will not remain in the social housing system," he said.

The concept is meant to result in the social housing law that was supposed to begin as of 2017, according to the Government's original plan. Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) as admitted that the original deadline will probably not be met.

He believes the Government has time to design and push through the law by the end of the elections in the fall of 2017. The Platform for Social Housing advocacy group is criticizing these delays.

They are concerned that there will not be any political will to push through this complex topic in the run-up to elections. The lower house says it wants to return to this topic in March of next year.  

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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