Czech MP from the far right is a trafficker in poverty
Lubomír Volný, an MP in Tomio Okamura's "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement and a regional assembly member, has been renting properties for five years to the same impoverished families that the SPD customarily labels as "inadaptables" or "parasites", making money from the very welfare system that the SPD otherwise rejects as costly and dysfunctional. Public broadcaster Czech Television has reported on his business dealings in detail during an episode of "Reportéři ČT" that aired on 12 March.
According to that reporting, Volný is a recipient of rents paid by the state that are the equivalent of the commercial rent for luxury accommodations even though the apartments themselves are inferior. On Božkova Street in Ostrava, part of the famous excluded locality of Zadní Přívoz where Volný rents to tenants who are dependent on welfare, he is charging CZK 15 000 [EUR 600] for a three-room apartment including services and utilities and CZK 17 000 [EUR 670} for a 3 + 1 apartment where a 10-member family is living.
A similarly large family has been paying a little less than that for a larger 2 + 1 apartment. In two of the MP's apartment buildings there are five different tenants living together in the same space being charged a per capita rent.
According to Czech Television, any amount of more than CZK 8 000 [EUR 300] just for rent and services in one of those smaller apartments would already be in excess of local market prices, but in that locality rents have already zoomed upwards. A municipally-owned apartment unit, which socially-excluded tenants are ineligible for because they do not meet the conditions, would cost approximately one-third of the rent charged by Volný.
According to the head of the field social worker program of the organization SPOLEČNĚ-JEKHETANE, Markéta Vavříková, Volný's apartments are in a substandard state of repair. "The housing in those units is catastrophic, there is mold in them because they are naturally in bad shape," she told Czech Television.
"His case is one of trafficking in poverty. He is actually exploiting the fact that rents in that area are artificially supported. That is a socially excluded area where the level of the rents does not correspond to the price that he could ask for them on the real commercial market," said Czech MP Lukáš Černohorský (Pirates).
Volný presented himself as a teacher during the regional elections. During 2015 and 2016 he was unemployed for almost a year - and according to the contracts that Czech Television has seen, he was receiving tens of thousands of crowns monthly from his rentals during that time.
Czech Television reported that the MP did not draw unemployment benefit, but did not explain whether the state continued to cover the costs of his medical insurance. "If this is a politician who speaks about welfare abuse, who talks about parasites, and who engages in such business practices here, then the question arises: Who is actually the parasite, who is really abusing and leeching off of the welfare system?" said Eliška Černá of the Faculty of Social Studies at Ostrava University.
When the Czech Television reporter asks Volný whether he believes it is acceptable for his tenants to have to draw on their benefits or incomes that are intended for other expenditures in order to pay him those high rents, he responds with another question: "Do you have a better option for those people? Move them into your own home."
Former members of the SPD also disagree with the landlord's rental practices. Some left the party exactly because he became chair of the Moravian-Silesian branch of the movement, and they have put together a petition to remove him.
"In the first place, he does not uphold the SPD program. As an unemployed teacher he has been a parasite on the benefits paid by the state for the leasing of two apartment buildings in the excluded locality of Ostrava-Přívoz,“ Czech Television showed an SPD member saying at a meeting about the petition to remove him.
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