Czech town cancels commission for container housing as too costly - which local opposition politicians have argued all along
Modular housing units will not be installed at the Chanov housing estate in the Czech town of Most this year now that the town has canceled its tender for the installation. The Most town hall will now address how to arrange housing for the families living in substandard apartment units in the prefabricated apartment buildings on the estate.
On Thursday, 27 May, local councillors postponed the implementation of the modular housing project indefinitely after assessing the bids submitted for it by different companies. Town leaders had considered modular housing a better solution than repairing the existing apartment blocks.
In March the town issued a tender for construction of a modular housing building. The initial plan was for an 18-unit construction to be installed before the summer holidays.
The predicted cost was CZK 31 million [EUR 1.2 million] exclusive of VAT. The lowest price offered during the bidding process was CZK 35.5 million [EUR 1.4 million] exclusive of VAT.
"By law we had to cancel the tender because the bids exceeded the cost predicted. We will discuss with the councillors what to do with Chanov now, because it is not economical for the town to spend CKZ 45 million [EUR 1.8 million] to build 18 units, especially at a time like this when the budgets of municipalities are not being met," said the mayor.
The town council will now investigate how many people are living in units that will not be able to be heated because of their poor state of repair when the next heating season begins; according to the mayor, the decision has not yet been made as to whether to reduce the construction costs of new units somehow or whether it would be better to undertake an alternative solution such as fixing selected units. According to the Regional Authority council member for the Pirates, Lukáš Ryšavý, the need to cut CZK 3 million [EUR 118 000] in costs with respect to such a tender is not an unsolvable problem.
"Anybody who knows even a little bit about construction knows that a cost difference of CZK 3 million could be resolved. In other words, this decision was likely made for another reason," Ryšavý told the A2larm news server.
"The current local leadership has not managed to implement many projects, for example, reconstruction of the architecturally significant REPRE house of culture in the center of the town, and to go through with this project at this time would mean that one of their biggest investments would, paradoxically, go into Chanov, which would not cast them in the best light as far as those who voted for the ProMost party are concerned," he told A2larm. The new building was to have been constructed from temporary housing units, the design of which was to have been based on repurposed shipping containers.
Some opposition members of the local government, as well as some local residents of the Chanov housing estate itself, opposed the construction project. "I myself personally disagreed with building container housing in an excluded locality from the beginning, and now there is hope that the town will definitively back away from the plan to construct such container units and will take the path of reconstructing the damaged prefabricated apartment buildings with the involvement of local residents, for example, through a social enterprise," Adam Komenda, an opposition member of the local assembly in Most, told news server Romea.cz.
"The residents of the Chanov housing estate have the hope of a better future, therefore," Komenda said. Speaking to the Czech News Agency in March, opposition local assembly member Jan Hrubeš (Pirates and Greens for Most) said "We still believe that with the aid of a subsidy it would be possible to reconstruct the existing apartment blocks and the town could save a great deal of money."
The building of the modular housing had been previously criticized by the Architects without Borders group, which assessed the documentation for the cadastral and construction proceedings around the plan. In their view, a container housing construction is inappropriate for longterm residency and also not appropriate to install in a peripheral part of the town that is considered problematic.
Concerns about the project were also expressed by the previous Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová, who warned that by implementing modular construction in a segregated locality such as Chanov, Most would be committing discrimination in the area of housing on the basis of ethnicity, as the vast majority of the residents there are Romani. The town leadership disagreed with that assessment and said they believed the housing would be dignified despite the fact that the facades of the units would be sheet metal.
The town has never responded to the concerns expressed by locals that such units might develop mold as previously happened in the Poschlá quarter of Vsetín, where a mayor allowed two buildings of container units to be installed and rented to Romani residents evicted from the town center. Chanov residents also initiated several petition drives against the building of the container housing development.
The national Agency for Social Inclusion also ended its collaborations with the town of Most over the planned construction of the container units at Chanov. The town council will discuss what to do next with regard to the housing estate during its 10 June meeting.
There are eight prefabricated apartment blocks remaining at the Chanov housing estate today. Nine years ago, blocks 2, 8, 11 and 13 underwent reconstruction and local residents contributed to that work.
The total cost of repairing the four blocks was CZK 43 million [EUR 1.7 million], most of which was covered by European Union subsidies. Four prefabricated buildings that were in poor condition have been demolished there over the course of the last eight years.
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