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Czech Social Democrats would withdraw controversial plan to further restrict housing benefits

17.6.2018 10:13
The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic.
The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic.

If the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) is put in charge of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry as part of the next Government, then it will withdraw a controversial planned bill to further restrict housing benefits. Czech MP Jan Chvojka (ČSSD) announced that plan during the 14 June debate in the lower house.

Acting Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jaroslava Němcová (ANO) then defended her intentions to the lower house. In her view, the proposed measures will limit the opportunities for housing benefits to be either misused or "over-used".

The benefits are meant to reach people in need, not those who have built businesses around the benefits, the minister emphasized. The lower house convened to debate the planned adjustments to the housing benefits at the instigation of a group of MPs led by the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL).

The Christian Democrats said they want to force the ministry to delay its plans, as in their view the changes would increase the risk of impoverishment for as many as 250 000 households, especially families with children and senior citizens. ANO, the ČSSD and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) declared during the introductory discussion that they would not support the program of the proposed extraordinary session.

As of the morning of 14 June it was highly unlikely that the lower house would be reaching any conclusions on the issue. Němcová said the welfare system has been conceived of for years in such a way that it does not pay for certain people to work in formal employment and that municipalities have been able to sell the apartment units and residential hotels they have owned, an opportunity seized upon by private groups.

"We are aiding people, but we are especially assisting the private businesses that have developed in this area," the minister pointed out. Without naming anybody, she said she believes there are many politicians who personally own the apartment units and residential hotels whose tenants qualify for the housing benefits.

Chvojka, on the other hand, said he believes a change for the better cannot happen without an affordable social housing system and that the bill now proposed would also affect poorer working families and senior citizens. "We disagree with such reforms and the ČSSD decidedly does not support them," he said.

A referendum has been underway within the ČSSD about whether the party should join a minority cabinet together with ANO that would be tolerated by the KSČM. The Labor Ministry would be led by a ČSSD nominee in that case, Petr Krčál.

"If we will get the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, our minister will withdraw that bill," Chvojka said. Němcová then said that any eventual successor to her would have the right to make such a move.

The current Labor and Social Affairs Minister then warned that the state of affairs will just persist in which it pays for municipalities to sell off their real estate holdings and for private businesses to develop their "trafficking in poverty." ANO, ČSSD and the KSČM then said the bill has not yet been discussed by the Government or the lower house, that it can, therefore, still be amended, and it would be premature for it to be discussed further.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Housing, poslanec, Poslanecká sněmovna, sociální politika vlády



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