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Czech Republic: Demonstration supports 100+ families at risk of eviction in Brno

7.12.2016 19:46
A demonstration by the
A demonstration by the "We Want to Live Indoors!" (Chceme bydlet) group was held in support of the occupants of apartment buildings in Brno-Zábrdovice in 2016. (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

More than 100 households in the apartment buildings of the Brno-Zábrdovice quarter are living in uncertainty. The buildings' owners are changing and the new owner plans repairs to the properties.

Some tenants in the properties just have short-term leases and no idea what will happen in January when they expire. Even though they have managed to begin negotiations between the landlord and the local authority, the "We Want to Live Indoors!" ( Chceme bydlet!) initiative says they still lack any guarantee of a lawful, socially sensitive approach.

Tuesday's demonstration in support of the tenants was attended, according to estimates reported by the Czech News Agency, by 200 people who marched through Brno peacefully. The initiative did not call off the demonstration even after recent statements by a representative of the incoming landlord that there are no plans to end people's leases en masse during the next half year.

Vladimír Loukota, secretary of the Fidurock Brno firm, made that statement today in response to a question from the Czech News Agency. Miriam Kanioková, representing the demonstrating initiative, told the press that "There is an absolute lack of clear communication with the tenants."

According to Kanioková, the situation affects 500 people, hundreds of them children. Most of them are Romani and will have difficult finding a new sublet for that reason.

"They are leaving and moving into residential hotels, into shelters, or moving away from Brno altogether into totally non-standard housing," said Jan Milota of the Brno-based IQ Roma servis organization. One local woman who did not want to give her name out of fear for her personal safety told the press, in tears, that "I don't know what will happen with us in January. A residential hotel is no way to live."

The woman said her children have already been taken in by foster parents while she cares for her ill loved ones. Her lease ends on 31 December.

Occupants of her building reportedly have received a tentative commitment that their lease will be extended for three more months or half a year. "Until we have it in writing, it's just a rumor I can't believe," the woman said.

The demonstrators assembled in the early evening in front of the residential hotel on Vlhká Street. They marched to Koliště carrying signs and chanting "We want to live indoors!" ("Chceme bydlet!").

In front of the office of one of the companies that they accuse of unfair behavior they emptied a chest of toys to draw attention to the fact that those in danger of eviction are children. Some of those in the crowd chanted "Expropriate them!"

The protest culminated in a performance in front of the Janáček Theater. Loukota told the Czech News Agency last week that the firm does not want to evict tenants en masse onto the street and that it has a long-term business plan.

Today he added that the activists "are protesting something that will never happen", that there would not be hundreds of people on the street at Christmas or at any other time, and that the rental contracts have been extended for all tenants with the exception of a few rent defaulters. He emphasized that the company would always proceed in accordance with the law.

Representatives of City Hall ment with representatives of the company on Friday. The firm acknowledged to Deputy Mayor Matěj Hollan (Žít Brno) that it had proceeded unlawfully in some cases so far.

The company is supposed to begin a new collaboration with the city's lawyers and with the Drom organization, which was established by a municipal department of Brno. "We have agreed to keep each other informed," Hollan said.

The city, according to Hollan, respects the rights of the private owner and cannot prevent it from appraising and using its assets. At the same time, the Deputy Mayor called on the owner to uphold the civil code and do its best to de-escalate the problems.

The "We Want to Live Indoors!" initiative also does not deny the owner's right to do what it wants with its property. The initiative insists that the rental relationships be ended lawfully and that a sensitive approach be taken that will give people a chance to find themselves comparable new housing.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Housing, social exclusion, social housing



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