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Czech municipality claims it offered evictees leases, they say otherwise

Ostrava, 6.5.2013 18:20, (ROMEA)
Housing for Romani people, Ostrava-style, 2013. A colony for homeless people in abandoned garages. Photo:  František Kostlán
Housing for Romani people, Ostrava-style, 2013. A colony for homeless people in abandoned garages. Photo: František Kostlán

Representatives of the remaining occupants of Ostrava’s Přednádraží ghetto met today with Vice-Mayor Petra Bernfeldová, who told them that the central municipal department of Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz will not be leasing vacant apartments to most of those recently evicted from the last occupied building there. Some of the evictees are allegedly indebted and therefore do not qualify for a municipally-owned apartment, while others either allegedly rejected previous offers of municipal leases or never applied for them in the first place.

The problematic situation on Přednádraží street has been underway since last summer, when the Building Works Authority decided the occupants had to leave the locality because the buildings are hazardous. Most people left, but some remain in building number 8 to this day.

Interest in the locality was revived several days ago after the owner of the properties, Oldřich Roztočil, signed new leases with those still living there. However, he did not manage to convince the Building Works Authority to re-register the building as residential so his tenants could qualify for housing benefits. Roztočil them announced to his tenants that they must leave, which most of them have not done. The landlord then turned to the police.

"This situation has been ongoing since last August - nothing serious has changed, it’s just that these people did not want to see reality before. Now that the owner of the buildings has turned against them, they are trying to figure out what to do,” Bernfeldová said, adding that the municipal social welfare department is now working with the evictees.

Social workers have reportedly offered the evictees housing in apartments, residential hotels and shelters. Of the families remaining in the ghetto, the municipality claims that at least two qualify for a municipally-owned apartment because they are solvent, but they have not yet applied for leases.

"Everything is now at risk for us. We are staying here and we will wait to see what happens next. I didn’t like those negotiations [with Bernfeldová] because what they said there was not true. They have never offered any families here apartments,” evictee Helena Macková said.

The Přednádraží occupants had originally planned to deliver a petition to the municipal leadership today, but have yet to collect signatures for it. "The basic point is that the people from Přednádraží, and not only them, must have somewhere to live. Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz has roughly 300 vacant apartments available now that are falling into disrepair. We demand that Moravská Ostrava open up these long-neglected apartments for their citizens,” said Kumar Vishwanathan, who is working with the Přednádraží evictees.

Vishwanathan wants the municipality to collaborate more with nonprofits. In his vision, the municipality would award the evictees leases and the nonprofits would provide social work and bear legal responsibility for making rent payments.

"The social status of the people in that locality does not entitle them to behave as they are behaving. They got the locality into the state it’s in and now they are complaining. If they don’t want to assimilate, then what are they protesting about?” a citizen who was against supporting the evictees’ petition told the Czech Press Agency.

Roztočil claims that he submitted all of the documentation previously at his disposal to police and still has to provide them with copies of the recently-signed leases. He has not yet heard from the police how they plan to proceed.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Ostrava, Petice, Ostrava-Přednádraží, Romové, sociální bydlení, sociální služby, sociální vyloučení, socioekonomický rozvoj, ubytovny, Czech republic, Housing, news, Roma



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