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Czech social housing law adoption nowhere in sight, MPs haven't moved to second reading

27.4.2017 8:17
The Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  www.psp.cz)
The Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: www.psp.cz)

On 25 April the Czech Chamber of Deputies once again failed to close its opening debate of the draft law on social housing prepared by the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The chances of the law being adopted before the autumn elections continue to sink.

Critics of the bill point out to the billions of Czech crowns in expenditures they believe it would incur, among other things. Doubts also prevail about the circle of people who might be considered eligible for social housing.

The reproaches are coming both from the right-wing opposition and from some governing coalition parties. In addition to the governing coalition ANO movement, the Czech Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) joined the criticism on the 25th.

The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, led by Michaela Marksová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), approached the problem in a bizarre way, according to the vice-chair of the KDU-ČSL, Czech MP Jan Bartošek. "Instead of creating a system of affordable housing, we are making social cases out of people who do not fall into that category," he said.

The MP estimated that social housing would, in the version proposed, cost at least CZK 150 billion [EUR 5.6 billion] and the law could consider as much as 5 % of the population eligible for aid. "The ministry has wasted its chance to design a quality law," he emphasized.

Rapporteur Jitka Chalánková (TOP 09) directly called the bill deceptive. In addition to the broad circle of those who would be considered eligible for social housing and the cost of providing it, she also mentioned in her critical speech that she believed the law would not motivate people to leave social housing for the usual housing available on the market.

Czech MP Marek Benda (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) assessed the law as wrong in terms of its legal aspects as well. While the Communists are still saying that housing must be affordable for all, their MP Alena Nohavová is also demanding the Government clarify how the social apartments that are described in the law are to be financed.

The first reading of the social housing bill began in the lower house two weeks ago. During this week's debate, which has been suspended, there was little attendance on the floor of the lower house when it came time to vote on an ODS motion to postpone the discussion until Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) would be there.

ODS asked for a two-hour break after ČSSD requested a five-minute one so that a sufficient number of MPs could attend to vote. The club of TOP 09 and the Mayors then announced their own request for a two-hour break to follow the ODS break.

Members of the lower house leadership then agreed that the discussion would be postponed until the next morning. "Each club is entitled to a two-hour break, that's not voted on; we were meant to reassemble at 21:12, but TOP 09 announced they would take their break at that time, so today's session is closed. It's just obstruction... I am so sorry, but we probably are not going to push this through," Czech MP Roman Sklenák (ČSSD) commented through online social networks.

If the MPs return to the social housing bill they will vote on a motion submitted by Chalánková for it to be returned to the Government for reworking and eventually to extend the deadline for it to be discussed by the lower house committees. In that case it would be practically certain that the bill would never be voted on before the autumn elections.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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poslanec, Poslanecká sněmovna, sociální bydlení, sociální oblast



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