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Czech President verbally assails residential hotel evictees, supports city's move to abolish housing benefits entirely

19.6.2018 15:40
Czech President Miloš Zeman, 2017. (PHOTO: TV Barrandov)
Czech President Miloš Zeman, 2017. (PHOTO: TV Barrandov)

Czech President Miloš Zeman perceives declaring municipal territories "housing benefit-free zones" to be part of combating poverty. He would agree with declaring all of the City of Ústí nad Labem such a zone.

As he began his sixth presidential visit to the Ústecký Region today, Zeman also said at a meeting with Ústecký Regional Assembly members that essentially anybody who wants to work today can do so. He then reminded his audience of the low levels of unemployment in the Czech Republic, which in that particular region was just 4.7 % at the close of May.

"The people living in those residential hotels sometimes - forgive me for using these words - loaf about all day and are a bad example to their children, because their children are then absent from school - they should get off their butts and go work," Zeman said. If unemployment levels were high, the President said he would never be making such a statement.

Zeman also said he absolutely agrees, for example, with the impending motion of the City Hall in Ústí nad Labem to make the entire city a housing benefit-free zone. Such an area was announced recently for all of its territory by the town of Kladno and other cities are considering it.

According to critics, the announcement of such zones will not address the situation - on the contrary, it could intensify undesirable social phenomena. Zeman, however, believes such a step is a component of combating poverty.

"It is necessary that at least some of the income currently being received by the owners of the residential hotels [from housing benefits] be reduced in this way, because that income comes from all of us, the taxpayers," he said. An opportunity to declare areas with an increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena in localities where public order is disturbed, children are endangered, or people are under the influence of alcohol and drugs was given to local councils by last year's amendment to the Act on Aid to Those in Material Distress.

Czech Labor Offices cannot disburse housing benefits to new applicants living in such localities. Representatives of Kladno, Litvínov, Ústí nad Labem and other cities are praising the measure.

In Kladno, thanks to the measure, Mayor Volf says "migration" has been halted and crime reduced. According to critics of the provisions, however, people will relocate to and then become concentrated in areas where they can still access the aid.

Twenty Senators have asked the Czech Constitutional Court to abolish the part of the law that includes these measures. The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry is proposing reducing housing benefits and limiting the circle of those eligible for them.

Some politicians, however, are against the state reducing the benefits any further. "I am for the harsher option," Zeman told the Ústecký Regional Assembly, where almost 20 representatives of local authorities from around the region were also at the meeting.

The Ústecký Regional Assembly itself has 55 members. Later this afternoon the President is scheduled to head to the village of Podbořany in the Louny area, where he will meet local residents.

Zeman won 72 % of the vote in that area during the February elections. Tomorrow he is scheduled to visit the Ledvice power plant and the villages of Bečov (Most district) and Lišany (Louny district).

In Lišany the current head of state received almost 94 % of the vote. The day after that he will once again visit Bílina, where the Mayor also happens to be the Governor of the Ústecký Region, Oldřich Bubeníček (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia - KSČM).

The President was last in Bílina eight months ago. He will close his three-day visit to the region by spending time at the chateau in Jezeří u Mostu, beneath which lies a brown coal mine.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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