Czech town withdraws housing subsidies from certain areas, experts say that's no solution
The Czech online daily Denik.cz reports that town councillors from the North Bohemian town of Jirkov want to be the first in the country to take advantage of a new regulation in the law on aid to those in material distress, and as of 1 September will restrict the disbursal of state housing benefits. Tenants renting housing in so-called "areas with increased occurrence of negative social phenomena" will no longer be eligible for such benefits.
People who move into housing on Krušnohorská Street or anywhere in the quarters of Březenec or Nová Ervěnice will no longer be eligible for state monies to pay rents. Tenants who live just one street over will still be entitled to apply for such benefits.
"We said we're going to go for it! This is a new instrument that can stop the migration of inadaptables, so we have decided to use it," Vice Mayor Dana Jurštaková told news server Denik.cz.
According to the Vice Mayor, long-term residents of those areas have ended up living in ghettos because of real estate speculation, and such localities are even dangerous sometimes. "We want to take advantage of any opportunity available by law to change the situation in those localities for the better," she said.
Experts: These measures solve nothing and just move the problem elsewhere
Locally determining the criteria for disbursal of housing benefits was facilitated through an amendment drafted by Czech MP Vladislav Vilímec (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) that makes it possible to end eligibility for a benefit "if an apartment is located in an area with a higher incidence of socially undesirable phenomena that is declared as such through a measure of a general nature". The Institute for Social Inclusion commented on the change as follows: "In other words, a municipality will be able to propose that benefits are not allowed to target certain territories because they are 'sociopathological'. Those previously known as '[Czech MP] Stanjura's homeless' will now probably be replaced by 'Vilímec's homeless'."
However, according to Czech Public Defender of Rights Anna Šabatová, it is not possible to deny somebody benefits just because they live on the "wrong" street. "This addresses a problem of public order by interfering with the constitutionally-guaranteed right to aid in material distress," her spokesperson Iva Hrazdílková said.
Radek Jiránek, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, which is administered by the Office of the Government, also disagrees with the measure. In his view such an ordinance could also affect people who have been living in such a locality for decades.
"After such a measure is announced people will just move into different units or change their lease or sublease," the Agency director said, adding that the measure will not solve anything essential and will lead to the creation of socially excluded localities in other places. Other towns, however, want to join Jirkov in applying such measures.
"According to our information about the announcement of similar areas, other municipalities are considering doing so, mostly in the Karlovy Vary, Moravian-Silesian and Ústecký Regions. At this moment there are roughly 10 of them," Lucie Nemešová, spokesperson for the Agency, confirmed to Denik.cz.
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