Romani residents of Czech town, evicted during reconstruction, cannot find landlords to rent to them
By the end of March 2018 the town of Děčín will have evicted all of the tenants residing in a building that was once a primary school. Despite the fact that the condominium apartment units are municipally-owned, the tenants are being forced to leave without being offered any replacement accommodation.
The reason the contracts are being cut short is the extensive overall reconstruction of the building, financed by a subsidy for energy savings in apartment buildings. After the reconstruction is completed, the property is meant to continue to serve as an apartment building, but it is not clear whether the current tenants will be able to resume living there.
Originally the families were meant to be moved out by the beginning of December, but the town has extended the period until the end of March. "The statutory city of Děčín has no unoccupied apartments to offer these renters currently," said Martin Kříž of the Local Development Department at the town hall.
"The tenants were aware, when they signed each lease, that it was concluded for a fixed time, i.e., that it would end when the agreed time was over and might not be extended," he told news server Romea.cz. One of the many tenants who is now in a desperate life situation thanks to these developments is named Petr Kováč.
Kováč has resided in the building with his family for seven years. He was employed as a social worker and then as a local police officer for several years.
Kováč is now living on a disability pension, which restricts his options. It is quite probable that most of the tenants will end up in a socially excluded locality, because most of them are Romani people with almost zero chances of finding a landlord to rent them an apartment on the regular commercial market.
Another barrier may be the recent amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress which makes it possible for a local authority to issue an OOP ("Measure of a General Nature") restricting the disbursal of housing benefits to certain localities only. Despite the fact that the town has all of this information and is collaborating with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, it is only offering these particular people at risk of homelessness their regularly accessible social services.
The local consultant for Děčín and for long-distance support from the Agency, Daniel Vališ, claims local social workers are aiding people with finding new housing. "It is comprehensible that the current tenants are concerned. For impoverished Romani people, who comprise most of the people at that address, it will not be easy to find an apartment on the open market. City social workers are helping them look for replacement housing along with the child welfare authorities, in collaboration with the Labor Office of the Czech Republic and nonprofit organizations. The aid is coordinated as part of the community planning group," he told Romea.cz.
Kováč, however, alleges that nobody is assisting him with finding new housing. "I have worked this entire time, but they don't take that into consideration. I did quite a bit of work for this town. Now that I am ill, when I have two serious illnesses that are life-threatening, it's like the town doesn't know me at all, as if I were an immigrant, and they are not helping me," he told Romea.cz.
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