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Czech mayor once praised for Roma integration halts subsidies to part of housing estate, impact on tenants unreported

1.8.2017 12:45
Drahomíra Miklošová, Mayor of Obrnice
Drahomíra Miklošová, Mayor of Obrnice

The Czech News Agency reports that following the towns of Děčín, Jirkov and Most, the famous village of Obrnice has become yet another municipality in the Ústecký Region to decide to exploit the recent amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress and to halt the disbursal of housing benefits to tenants living in so-called "areas with an increased incidence of socially negative phenomena". The decision specifically affects the inhabitants of at least three prefabricated buildings in the village's local "Nová výstavba" housing estate, but the Czech News Agency does not report what will become of them.

Mayor Drahomíra Miklošová (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) said the village council's decision was unaninmous. "The amendment regulates the approach to assessing eligibility for housing benefits, and unlike the practice up to now, municipalities finally have a lever for ameliorating the continually rising flood of problematic tenants into apartment buildings and units owned by speculators who, through them, cash in on exactly those housing benefits even though they do not pay into either the maintenance funds or for services and utilities. For the time being we have chosen three buildings which these newcomers have already almost destroyed. However, if it proves to be in accordance with the methodology, we will expand this measure to cover the entire housing estate," she said.

The village of 2 000 is a socially excluded locality where more than 40 % of the inhabitants are ethnic Roma. The local government says it is doing its best, through all possible means, to combat the practices of speculators who buy apartments cheaply and frequently charge the tenants unnecessarily overpriced rents which, moreover, are covered by state benefits.

"They do not pay into the common maintenance funds or for services and utilities. That forces the other members of the cooperative owners' associations that own these properties to go into debt. That is the only way they can prevent the electricity and water from being disconnected. People have already had to move out of one of the prefabricated buildings because of unpaid debts for the services and utilities connected with their use of the units," the mayor said.

In an effort to prevent speculators from buying more units, the local government previously demolished four devastated, uninhabited prefabricated apartment buildings and since 2014 has been buying apartment units in the remaining buildings on the housing estate that have been foreclosed on because of unpaid debts. Obrnice is grapppling with high unemployment also, as more than 16 % of its inhabitants capable of working are jobless.

The mayor says the municipal leadership is involving socially vulnerable citizens in community service jobs and in the technical services aspect of public services. The municipality won an award from the Council of Europe for its integration of the Romani community in 2013.

agw, bau, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Drahomíra Miklošová, hmotná nouze, novela, Obrnice



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