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Czech town rejects residential hotel tenants' applications for housing benefits across the board

2.6.2015 14:41
Mayor of Bohumín Petr Vícha is also the chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party's club in the Senate (2015)
Mayor of Bohumín Petr Vícha is also the chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party's club in the Senate (2015)

Town councilors for the municipality of Bohumín have rejected all 124 applications for housing benefits submitted by individuals who are accommodated in residential hotels on their territory. Such rejections could impact as many as 210 such facilities throughout the country.  

The town hall took advantage of an amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress giving municipalities the power to decide about housing benefits specifically. Pavel Čempěl, spokesperson for the town hall, announced the decision on its official website.  

Bohumín had previously declared that it could not agree with benefits being provided to persons about whom it has no information. The town councilors now have toughened their position through this response to the applications.  

All 124 applications were rejected. "We have noted problems with the residential hotels ever since former minister Drábek destroyed what was a functioning social work system. Since then we and other towns have been pointing out the problem with the residential hotels and with the wasting of welfare in a ways that benefits the owners of several of them. It is, therefore, understandable that we cannot express our support for this continuing, especially when we now have no detailed information about these clients. From the applications, what we can now see is that roughly 25 % of the applicants are not even from Bohumín," Mayor of Bohumín Petr Vícha (ČSSD) said.  

According to the town hall, there is reportedly no risk that these people might end up on the street from one day to the next. "The Labor Office has advised us that it will pay these people, as temporary compensation, an extraordinary, immediate, one-time aid benefit. However, it can only pay that for the next three months, or until the end of August. That is enough time for the persons now in the residential hotels to arrange for other housing," Čempěl said in a press release.  

In Bohumín there are currently 10 such residential hotels housing approximately 450 people. The amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress has applied since May.

Thanks to the amendments, municipalities are now responsible for deciding whether to award housing benefits, not Labor Offices. This means they can enforce the closure of residential hotels for the poor - and the occupants of those facilities could end up on the street.  

The housing benefit is an additional welfare benefit paid by the state to persons who cannot afford housing even with the standard housing subsidy provided by the state. The amendment has simplified the housing benefit process in order to reduce its abuse and its disbursal to facilities that are not up to code, and is also designed to increase people's motivation to resolve their unfavorable housing and social situations.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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