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Social housing law sparks dispute between ministers for ANO and Czech Social Democrats

10.1.2017 7:36
Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová. (PHOTO: www.mmr.cz)
Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová. (PHOTO: www.mmr.cz)

On 24 November 2016, the demolition of two dilapidated prefabricated apartment buildings at the Chanov housing estate in the Czech town of Most was begun in the presence of Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová (ANO) (pictured above) and the Mayor of Most, Jan Paparega. The town is one of the successful applicants for subsidies from a program financing the demolition of decrepit buildings offered by the Czech Regional Development Ministry.

The drafting of a law on social housing has sparked disputes between the cabinet ministers for ANO and the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD). Šlechtová said she believes the most recent version of the bill, which proposes that social apartment units should be arranged by a new state-level authority, will return the country to the "conditions of real socialism".

Šlechtová said the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry's bill is not based on any agreement, has not taken input from the commenting procedure into account, and is simply an effort to accelerate the law's adoption. Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (ČSSD) said he believes the provision of social housing must not fall victim to electoral combat and that the main problem with the coalition Government adopting the law is coming from the ANO movement

The ministers made their statements in press releases on 6 January. The Czech Government's original plan had been to have the law adopted and in effect by now. 

Governing politicians have not yet managed to reach agreement on the legislation. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) has designated the bill as one of 10 priorities for his cabinet between now and the next elections.

Eighty organizations aiding people in need have challenged the Government to adopt a social housing bill for submission to the legislature by the end of this month, otherwise they will not have time to see it passed before the next elections. The law is to be based on a concept that the cabinet has already approved.

According to the first version of the bill from last September, social apartment units were to have been administered by municipalities, which would receive money from the state to do so. The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry then received thousands of comments on the draft legislation.

The most recent version of the bill was completed just before Christmas. It proposes that municipalities would be able to join the social housing system voluntarily.

In those municipalities that do not want to administer social apartment units, such units would be administered for the needy by a new state-level office. According to Chvojka and Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová (ČSSD) a law requiring municipalities to administer social housing would not be supported in Parliament and would have no chance of being passed.

The voluntary involvement of local authorities in combination with a state-level office is the only option, Chvojka and Marksová have said. Šlechtová has said the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry is now coming forward with an absolutely new concept that has not been negotiated with anybody else and does not take the comments that have been submitted into account.

"We are objecting to this effort by the Labor Ministry to accelerate the adoption of a law on social housing that will return to the country to the conditions of real socialism... I do not want to return to the state-run District Enterprises for Apartment Management in this country, we've made it past that hurdle. We already had socialism here and everybody knows how the awarding of apartments functioned and how the housing stock turned out," Šlechtová said.

The Regional Development Minister called the Labor Ministry's approach to the issue unprofessional. Šlechtová said her ministry believes the current version of the law is worse than the previous one.

"Experts" are reportedly contacting the Regional Development Ministry to demand that the bill be stopped. The Czech Human Rights Minister has said, however, that social housing must not fall victim to the electoral combat that is on the horizon.

The authors of the draft legislation say they based the most recent version on the comments they received and on the stances taken by organizations representing local authorities. Chvojka said it seems the main problem with adopting the bill will now be posed by the ANO partners in the coalition.

The Czech Finance Ministry, which is headed by an ANO minister, does not want to release money for a social housing system, while the Regional Development Ministry has reservations about the group defined as eligible for such housing, Chvojka's press release stated. Šlechtová said she believes social apartment units must aid those in need "but must not distort their motivation to provide for their own housing themselves."

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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ANO, ČSSD, Housing, social housing



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