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Czech Labor Minister: Current system serves speculators in poverty

12.4.2015 2:44
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.

Even if the Czech state changes the current housing benefit system, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) says it will take a long time for it to be completely eliminated. The minister said the current system plays into the hands of speculators who house socially vulnerable people in their properties in order to draw money from the state in exchange for providing this form of service.  

The minister made her remarks on 10 April while visiting the village of Větřní in the Český Krumlov area. A large community lives in its socially excluded areas.

"I am terribly sorry that we are grappling with the kinds of problems that have accumulated here over the past several years," the minister said. She called the socially excluded locality in Větřní "standard" in comparison to other, similar communities in the country.  

In recent years, the amount of money expended on housing benefits has grown. In 2012 the Czech state spent roughly CZK 7.4 billion (EUR 270 million) on them, while last year the amount was almost CZK 12.1 billion.

The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry is now drafting a Social Housing Concept that will form the basis of a new law. The new rules should take effect in 2017.

According to the proposal, the planned social housing model will have two pillars. The first will be support for people in need so they can maintain their current housing.

The housing benefit falls precisely into that category. The second pillar will include crisis housing as well as social apartments and affordable apartments that needy people would be able to access depending on their situations.

Marksová Tominová has previously stated that the law must oblige municipalities to zone areas on their territories where some apartments will serve as social housing. On Friday she said that at her meeting with the leadership of Větřní, she discussed how the state might make the municipality's situation easier when it comes to this question.    

"We debated how we can help through the Labor Offices in such localities. We have the financing, for example, to activate long-term unemployed people through public works," the minister said.

She added that similar localities have also had good experiences with various projects for children. In her view there is a big difference between pupils who start school having grown up only in their family environments without ever coming into contact with any other institutions, and pupils who visit some kind of nursery school prior to beginning their mandatory school attendance.

Větřní has a population of 4 200 people, and Mayor Antonín Krák (ČSSD) says roughly 500 of them are socially vulnerable. "Many of them live in those residential hotels where the poverty business is blossoming. For us it's complicated, because those facilities don't belong to the municipality, but are owned by people who don't even live here," he said.

Krák said the municipality is currently owed CZK 10 million. Back rent for municipally-owned apartments comprises 90 % of that amount, according to him. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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