Czech landlord pressured to leave Civic Democratic Party for trafficking in poverty, he denies the accusation
Martin Kuba, the chair of the South Bohemian regional association of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), has met with his party colleague, Jan Zedník, seeking an explanation of Zedník's business enterprises leasing apartment units in socially excluded localities. News server lidovky.cz reports that Kuba has proposed cancelling Zedník's party membership.
"This enterprise does not fit with my idea of somebody who should be a member of a right-wing party. I believe we should support entrepreneurs who create something and whose work produces value. As I perceive this scandal today, I would propose that his membership be cancelled. I consider that the correct option," Kuba told the news server.
Zedník has already withdrawn from running in the local elections this autumn because of his business activity. He has decided to suspend his membership in the ODS party
Together with a business partner, Zedník owns 116 apartment units in the northern Bohemian towns of Most and Obrnice, where many tenants are able to cover their housing costs only thanks to state support. Kuba told lidovky.cz that he wants to hear Zedník explain when he bought the units and whether they were already in excluded localities when he bought them.
Kuba said he has a big problem with the idea that an ODS member would traffic in poverty, i.e., overcharge tenants because their rent is guaranteed to be paid by the state. Radim Staněk, chair of the ODS party in the Jindřichův Hradec area, sees the situation as Kuba does.
Zedník, who is also an assistant to Czech MEP Jiří Pospíšil, the former Czech Justice Minister now chair of the TOP 09 party, has said he sees real estate as a an ideal investment opportunity. "It's our fourth pillar of retirement and it will remain available or the next generation as long as the regime doesn't change," he told Czech Radio, adding that he cannot and does not want to investigate whether his clients take advantage of housing benefits or not.
However, in that same interview the landlord went on to note that he knows two-thirds of his tenants draw some kind of welfare. He also told Czech Radio Plus that his profits from the units are about CZK 320 000 [EUR 12 500] per month.
"The acquisition of real estate with the aid of mortgages for the purpose of then leasing it cannot be considered illegal, dishonest, or even a scandalous activity in a democratic society. My case, where the rents for the apartments I own in the locality of Most that the media has been covering are on average lower than the customary rents in that locality for privately-owned units, is decidedly none of those things," Zedník posted to his Facebook profile.
"For that reason, connecting my person with trafficking in poverty, i.e., with abusing the system, is an absolutely untrue media soundbite," Zedník posted. He also called for constructive debate on how to resolve the current discord in the area of social housing.
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