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Czech Republic: Poor people paying higher than average rents

Most, 27.10.2011 8:23, (ROMEA)

"Social housing" in the North Bohemian town of Most can cost almost twice as much as the rent paid by ordinary tenants who are employed and not dependent on welfare. The Most town hall has made the determination after collecting data for a map of rent levels. News server iDNES.cz reports that entrepreneurs are charging the poor high rents in order to access their state housing benefits.

Most tenants of housing estates in Most pay rents to cooperatives or private landlords of CZK 6 000 per month for 70-meter square, three-room, one-bath apartments, including deposits on heat and water. Tenants who apply for housing benefits, however, pay their landlords as much as CZK 12 000 for the same housing. The state contributes to the overpriced rent.

"We aren't yet able to say how much we are reimbursing people monthly per square meter, but we can say what the average rent of welfare recipients is. Depending on the number of tenants and the locality, rents average between CZK 8 000 and 12 000," says the Vice-Mayor of Most, Luboš Pitín. Anyone whose rent costs them more than 30 % of their income is entitled to a housing contribution. The amount of that contribution often reaches the so-called housing norm, which for a four-member family in a town the size of Most is about CZK 12 500.

Even though 30 % of a family's income is subtracted from that housing contribution, the state actually usually pays families an additional housing supplement so the family's income will not fall below the established minimum. "The landlords are setting the rent as high as they possibly can. It's a business that is making money at the expense of the state. It would be no problem for them to reduce their rents by 30 %," Pitín claims.

The town hall wants to try to get landlords to lower rents by using the information reflected in their pricing map. "We are turning to the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry so the ministry will have data available to it about how much is being customarily spent on housing and what amounts are being sought by those applying for welfare in order to finance their housing," the Vice-Mayor says.

The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry supports the calculation of rent contributions according to rent maps. "In cases where citizens are making use of residential hotels or living in sublets, the ministry recommends providing benefits to cover the costs of accommodation in such facilities in an amount corresponding to the rents that are customary in that location," ministry spokesperson Viktorie Plívová said, adding that an amendment has been drafted to the law on aid to those in material distress which will establish limits on housing costs.

Gwendolyn Albert, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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