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New initiative challenges Czech Government to adopt social housing law by the end of the month

6.1.2017 7:26
On 5 January 2017 the
On 5 January 2017 the "Have a Home" initiative organized a "happening" in front of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic in Prague to call for adoption of a law on social housing. (PHOTO: Martina Hrdličková)

Yesterday representatives of a new intiative called "Have a Home" (Mít svůj domov) organized a "happening" in front of the Office of the Government in Prague to challenge cabinet members to fulfill their campaign promise to adopt a law on social housing. The initiative wants the Government to do so by the end of January.

The initiative brings together more than a thousand citizens and 80 experts, institutions and organizations who have signed a petition on the issue. It has been supported by more than 10 famous figures such as the Slovak actor and diplomat Magda Vášáryová, pop singer Janek Ledecký, actor Jiří Lábus, politician Petr Pithart, entrepreneur Michal Horáček and others.

Actors dressed as "traffickers in poverty" held an ironic celebration of the fact that this Government, despite its campaign promises, will probably not adopt a social housing law. The actors "thanked" the Government for another 10 years of uninterrupted trafficking in poverty.

According to the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, 187 000 people ended up living in residential hotels, shelters, or on the street last year. That number represents a tripling during the last five years.

According to the initiative, the situation can only be resolved by adopting a high-quality law. The intiative says there are 15 principles that can be used to assess the quality of such a law.

All of the current governing parties - ANO, the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) - have pledged to adopt a social housing law. "They have made this promise more than once. First in 2013 during their campaign promise, and in the coaltion agreement, one year later in the Government's program declaration, and finally in 2015 in the Social Housing Concept. Through the influence of dubious disputes and constant postponement, however, it seems this Government will not manage to adopt the law despite the fact that it is supported by most citizens," Štěpán Ripka, an organizer of the intiative, says.

The Government has just 26 days to adopt the law before the end of January. "Otherwise it is most likely that the law will not make it through the legislative process by the end of this Government's term and the housing shortage among the most vulnerable groups, which includes, for example, children aging out of institutional care, senior citizens, and single mothers, will remain unresolved in the years to come," Ripka fears.

Along with the challenge, the initiative launched the web portal yesterday featuring arguments for adopting the law, the personal stories of people in need of housing, an assessment of the quality of the current wording of the bill, and calls to support the initiative by philosopher Jan Sokol, documentary filmmaker Helena Třeštíková,pop singer Janek Ledecký, actor Jiří Lábus, priest Ladislav Heryán, Slovak actress and diplomat Magda Vášáryová, physician Milena Černá, entrepreneur Michal Horáček, director of the Charter 77 Foundation Božena Jirků and politician Petr Pithart, who all expressed support for adopting a law by recording video messages. The campaign first began in December with a series of photoreportages about people in need of housing on the website Humans of Prague.

th, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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