Karel Karika: Benefit-free zones are absurd, the populists are abusing their power
Declaring an entire city a ghetto - an area with an "increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena" - where new residents will no longer be eligible for state housing benefits even if they fulfill the general criteria for them is a very bad idea. All that will happen after Ústí nad Labem declares itself such a zone is that the current state of affairs, in which some who are eligible for those benefits are now renting from traffickers in poverty, will become fixed in place.
Those traffickers will now have unlimited power over their tenants. It could even be said that this move is a step toward supporting immoral business practices of this kind.
Unfortunately, this will mean more people here will have no choice but to work in the gray economy, in prostitution, and to shoplift - because money must be made somehow, and people must have somewhere to live. Our "PRO! Ústí" (FOR! Ústí) party considers this a very bad idea and we have been consistently against it from the very beginning.
Each tenant whose rental contract expires, or who just wants to relocate within the city - including pensioners, people living with disabilities, and single mothers - will no longer be entitled to state housing supplements in association with that new rental agreement here. This regulation mainly rides roughshod over those in need, renters who will become hostages of the traffickers in poverty because they will be unable to find any other housing or will end up living right on the street.
An example of this was what happened here in June 2018, when such zones were declared just for certain addresses in the city, leading two residential hotels to close although the city had no housing solutions available for the evicted tenants. The city saved the state money, but at the city's own cost, because nothing flows from the state to the local budget in exchange for declaring such a zone.
Under no circumstances should these zones be declared for entire cities - on the contrary, I consider the correct decision on this issue to be one that develops and supports social housing and systematic social work. However, in the run-up to the most recent local elections, the town leadership refused collaboration with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, which would have been able to aid the city in that area.
It's a pity that cooperation with the Agency did not result in an actual project (such as building a community center, etc.). These housing benefit-free zones function as absolute instruments of repression, and the populist local politicians here are just demonstrating how strong they are and how willing they are to abuse their lawful options.
Let's add to that the probable future decline in real estate values here, which will affect everybody after the city has declared itself an area with an "increased incidence of socially undesirable phenomena", which in practical terms means that we will have openly declared ourselves to be a city with higher crime rates and high illegal drug consumption! Ústí nad Labem already has the country's highest number of residents involved in collections proceedings, but the city does not work with its impoverished residents on this at all (only the nonprofits do), so the local government has no concept in place for addressing this problem and is just looking for ways to increase restrictions while ignoring the fact that these residents are not going to disappear into thin air - rather, the number of homeless people will increase as a result.
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