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Czech Republic: Romani housing estate residents sign petition complaining about conditions

5.12.2016 18:25
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
The Janov housing estate in Litvínov, where Romani residents have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the local authority, local media, local police and social workers, property owners and ultra-right political groups for almost a decade. (PHOTO: Google Maps)

Dozens of occupants of the Janov housing estate in the Czech town of Litvínov have drawn up a complaint and petition about their housing conditions. They are blaming the Krušnohor Apartment Building Cooperative for the disrepair of the properties it owns there.

Petr Prokeš, spokesperson for the cooperative, told the Czech News Agency that the business rejects the complaints. He called most of the petitioners "rent defaulters" who are in debt.

In the complaint, the Janov residents demand repairs to what they say are debased apartment buildings and units. "All of the Romani people living in the Janov area have been pushed to the outskirts of society. The Krušnohor Apartment Building Cooperative has intentionally allowed all of the prefabricated apartment buildings on the Janov housing estate to deteriorate, predominantly those where Romani tenants have been living," wrote Jozef Čonka, the author of the complaint.

Dozens of locals have joined the petition of complaint. They also blame the Government for the condition of the housing estate.

"[The Government] has pushed Romani people to the outskirts of society and is doing its best to blame the Roma for all of its ills," Čonka said. Signatories are demanding an answer from the cooperative within one month and if they don't hear back, they plan to file a class action lawsuit.

The cooperative administers more than 1 000 apartment units at Janov and rejects the criticism. Most of the renters who have signed the petition, according to the cooperative, owe landlords back rent.

"Those who signed the petition owe us a total of CZK 3.13 million [EUR 116 000]. There are also some people who signed it and who live in units they rent from their owners, whom they owe CZK 1 million [EUR 37 000]. Altogether, the amount owed is CZK 4.15 million [EUR 154 000]. In other words, those who signed this petitition are big rent defaulters and they are daring to allege that we're not taking care of them, the poor guys," František Ryba, director of the cooperative, told the Czech News Agency.

According to Prokeš, the cooperative has invested tens of millions of crowns into Janov. Together with the Litvínov town hall the cooperative has joined the program for the Integrated Urban Development Plan (IUDP) and won subsidies from the European Union.

New playgrounds and sidewalks have been added to the housing estate. "During the past 10 years a total of CZK 239.6 million [EUR 9 million] has been invested into properties that we either administer or own at Janov, and of that amount there were subsidies as part of the IUDP of CZK 130.8 million [EUR 5 million], while the rest of the work commissioned cost more than CZK 10 million [EUR 370 000]," Hana Jánská of the cooperative said.

The situation at Janov has been complex for many years. In 2008 the housing estate became the target of demonstrations by right-wing radicals.

More than 1 500 non-Romani people complained about conditions at the housing estate last year as well, alleging that "gypsies" were the source of their woes. They addressed that petition to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD).

ČTK, agw, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Housing, Janov, Petice, Předsudky



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