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Czech town orders slumlord to remove tons of garbage from condemned building

Ústí nad Labem, Předlice, 28.3.2013 15:36, (ROMEA)
Ústí nad Labem, Předlice, Řeháčkova 4 - with the entrance finally bricked in. Photo:  František Kostlán
Ústí nad Labem, Předlice, Řeháčkova 4 - with the entrance finally bricked in. Photo: František Kostlán

News server iDNES.cz reports that the Ústí nad Labem town hall has ordered the removal of tons of garbage from a building in the Předlice quarter. The sad state of the structure was recently pointed out to them by the Konexe association, which helps impoverished Romani people in Ústí nad Labem.

Landlord Lenka Bunciková must now get rid of the unofficial garbage dump. If the mess is not removed by 11 April, the town hall will arrange for it to be cleaned out and will sue her for the costs.

The town has ordered the cleanup of the dump "to protect public health and prevent the emergence of an adverse epidemiological situation", according to the decision authored by Simona Heymerová of the local environmental protection department. The landlord never arranged for regular garbage service and never responded to previous calls from the town hall to do so. If the town hall has to remove the garbage, it estimates the cost will be around CZK 750 000.

Demolition of buildings

The building at Řeháčkova 4 reflects the conditions in practically all of Předlice. The quarter is full of desolate buildings and their owners are often either nowhere to be found, in foreclosure, or have mortgaged their buildings but do not take care of them.

The landlords involved took ownership of the buildings several years ago when Ústí nad Labem privatized its municipal housing stock in a way that did not ensure sustainable housing for local people. During the privatization, the Červeňák extended family offered to set up a tenants' cooperative for the building in which they were living in order to purchase it and care for it, but the town rejected the offer and sold the building to an untrustworthy owner who has not taken care of it and is to blame for its devastation.

The town recently evacuated the Červeňáks from that building, housing them first in a local gym and then in a residential hotel. Shortly after they moved in there, the owner of the property in which the residential hotel was located decided to close it as well.

The town hall has published a list of 16 buildings that are uninhabitable in the Předlice quarter and has decided to demolish them. Another four buildings will also be demolished in the Krásné Březno quarter. The demolitions will cost roughly CZK 25 million, of which CZK 5 million is ready for this year.

Řeháčkova 4

The building at Řeháčkova 4, of course, was not on the town's published list, and the Konexe association brought that fact to their attention. "The list is constantly being updated," town registrar Jiří Javorčák has commented, although the town gave no such indication when it first published the list.

"People are living in Řeháčkova 4 and there is a risk it might collapse at any time," Miroslav Brož of Konexe warned the town government after the list came out. The town leadership then filed criminal charges against Brož for alleging that people were living in a building that was in disrepair. "According to the the municipal experts' findings, no people are physically residing in those buildings," town representatives claimed.

Brož's allegations were subsequently confirmed. "That building is not fit for habitation. Such conditions cannot be tolerated," Josef Trmal, the regional-level health officer, said on 8 March after inspecting the building at Řeháčkova 4.

Several families were living at the address on that date. On the evening of Monday, 11 March 2013, the last family living there was evacuated and the building's entrance has been bricked up ever since.

Systemic approach

At a recent discussion in Prague on the housing situation in the Předlice quarter of Ústí and on Přednádraží street in Ostrava, attorney Klára Samková spoke of the need for thorough prosecution of these cases in order to insist that the laws of the Czech Republic be upheld and people's rights be protected. In her view, Ústí nad Labem and the Building Works Authority have made errors that must be discussed and corrected through the proper procedure.

Samková said she believed the local government could have expropriated the buildings because their owners had long not taken care of them, despite the town repeatedly calling on them to do so because they had become hazardous. The town could have repaired the properties itself and sued the landlords for the cost of the repairs.

Samková said both the state and the town have proceeded in a formalistic way in these matters and have shown absolutely no political will to find a solution to them. "We are encountering matters of a systemic nature, and the system must be defeated and can only be defeated through a systemic approach," she said.

František Kostlán, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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