Czech ombud: Towns need state financial aid and active employment policy
Today the Czech Public Defender of Rights (ombud) Anna Šabatová visited Předlice, the largest ghetto in Ústí nad Labem, and said the state should aid towns grappling with problems in socially excluded localities. She also said building works authorities should have greater powers and that in necessary cases, properties should be expropriated.
In the Předlice ghetto, which is comprised of several streets, landlords are not taking care of dozens of buildings that are in conditions ranging from bad to immediate emergencies. Many of them are still occupied.
The ombud says oversight must be enhanced and that local authorities need more options for intervening against property owners. "They need an instrument for expropriating properties from owners who do not take care of them," Šabatová said.
The People in Need organization mapped the situation in Předlice this past spring, and its analysis reports there are 34 buildings in bad condition there. "They are either in a technically unsatisfactory condition or in a condition that could endanger passers-by and the people who are living in them illegally or legally," said Jakub Michal, project manager of the Ústí branch of the NGO, who added that those living in the buildings have nowhere else to go.
Michal said the town should make use of apartment units owned by its various municipal departments to house those tenants. "There is capacity. We believe the municipal departments should offer their unoccupied units for social housing purposes," he said.
The town hall has reportedly been monitoring the state of the buildings in Předlice on an ongoing basis and endeavoring to get owners to either demolish or secure them. The town demolished two buildings considered emergencies last year and is seeking to recover the cost of the demolition from the owners.
More demolitions there are planned for this year. The town has allocated CZK 7 million in its budget for the work.
Šabatová believes the town hall has only limited options for addressing the situation. "The town as a whole owns a ridiculous number of apartment units, several hundred only, and has to grapple with the completely inefficient management being performed by the private owners of these other properties. If the state does not change its policy, if it does not help hold these people liable for their behavior, the town will have a hard time making any significant progress," she said.
The ombud believes the state should significantly aid towns in situations similar to that of Ústí nad Labem. "They definitely also need financial aid from the state, they need an active employment policy to give people jobs. They need to be able to offer people reasonable housing so that tenants don't have to live in thrall to those who exploit them," Šabatová explained.
The Public Defender of Rights has long called for a social housing law to be adopted by the Czech Republic. Several ministries are working on such a bill, which should be ready a year from now at the earliest.
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