Survey finds Czech Republic worst for ethnic discrimination on the housing market
In May and June 2013, a survey was conducted in five European countries to map the opportunities available to various marginalized population groups when seeking housing. As the country with the highest level of discrimination in the rental housing market on the basis of prospective tenants' membership in the Romani minority, the Czech Republic came out the worst of all the countries surveyed.
In the Czech Republic, Romani people were discriminated against in 62 % of the cases reviewed. The testing of Roma access to housing in the Czech Republic was conducted in the town of Ústí nad Labem and organized by the Konexe civic association.
"The testing was done by telephone. Non-Romani and Romani volunteers responded to ads in the regional edition of Tip Servis magazine and on the internet. A Romani volunteer called each ad and openly asked whether it mattered that the potential tenant was Romani. A non-Romani team member then called the very same ad," Miroslav Brož of Konexe told news server Romea.cz.
During the testing the volunteers responded to a total of 20 ads. Half of the calls were to private individuals with apartments for rent and half were to real estate agencies. Konexe found that many of the ads in Tip Servis magazine featured formulations such as "minorities, don't call", "building without Romani tenants" or "calm neighborhood without ethnic minorities".
Konexe attempted to find a rental apartment for a Romani family in those parts of Ústí nad Labem where, with a few rare exceptions, Romani people do not live at all (the neighborhoods of Severní Terasa, Skřivánek, and Všebořice). Apartment rentals are essentially far less expensive in those parts of town than they are in the Romani ghettos. "The testing was supposed to verify the hypothesis that the reason Romani people are not living in those particular quarters of Ústí nad Labem is not because they cannot afford it, but simply because no one there will rent them an apartment," Brož told news server Romea.cz.
"We were ready to always present identical data, that we were the same ages and that our families were the same size. However, the question of family size only ever came up for the Romani caller after he asked whether it mattered to the landlord that he is Romani. He immediately had to answer questions like 'How many of you are there? How old are your children?' They never asked me those questions when I said a gadje name," said Brož, who was one of the callers. "Most of the responses to the non-Romani and Romani apartment-seekers were very different. The Romani caller was told the apartment was already occupied, while the non-Romani caller was told the apartment as available."
Real estate agencies: "Roma don't bother me, but I can't speak for the landlord..."
Brož says that when the Romani caller asked real estate agencies "Does it matter that we are a Romani family?", the responses were all but identical. "They answered that it definitely didn't matter to them, but that they couldn't speak on behalf of the landlord, so they would consult with him and then call the client back. They never called back, not even in one case," Brož told Romea.cz.
"Generally, we can say that the calls to private landlords' ads turned out better. We even managed to arrange several apartment viewings," Brož added.
The surveyors noted only one unambigous rejection. "One very eloquent real estate agent spent several minutes in conversation explaining and instructing us on how things stand and offered the Romani caller an alternative rental in a different locality in a building where impoverished Romani people live," Brož said.
Prague: "I don't want 'brown Czechs' in the apartment"
Romani people in other cities have similarly bad experiences. "I was looking for a rental apartment in Prague for my parents. My mother works as a nurse, and my father used to work as an attendant, but now he is on a disability pension. My parents are almost 50 years old," college student Renata Berkyová told news server Romea.cz.
"We have experienced several rejections. In one case, when they found out that I am Romani and my parents are too, they wanted to see my father in person. At the start of the phone call, when they didn't yet know he was Roma, they would have been satisfied with just a photograph. The landlord said he doesn't want any 'video poker' Roma or 'punks'," Berkyová said.
"I phoned in response to one very long ad and was told that the gentlemen did not want any 'brown Czechs' in the apartment. I was really very angered by that and I rebuked him for it," Berkyová recalls.
In the end she did find a rental apartment for her parents. The landlord is from Ukraine.
Order of discrimination: 1. Czech Republic, 2. France, 3. Italy, 4. Slovenia, 5. Serbia
The survey was organized by the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) in five European countries. Besides the Czech Republic, the testing took place in France, Italy, Serbia and Slovenia.
A total of 109 testing calls similar to those in the Czech Republic were placed. In the other countries, the calls concerned other ethnic minorities seeking housing, such as Blacks or Muslims.
Discrimination was found in almost 34 % of all cases on average. After the Czech Republic (62.5 % discrimination rate against Roma) came France (45 % discrimination rate against Arab and Black housing seekers), followed by Italy (37.5 % discrimination rate).
The fourth-worst situation was found in Slovenia (32.8 % discrimination rate against housing seekers from other countries of the former Yugoslavia or Latin America). "In Serbia, which had the best results, discrimination against Romani people was not found, but everyday experience there has made it clear that such discrimination does occur, just in the final phases of the whole rental process," EGAM's press release says.
This is the third time the European testing has taken place and the first time it has taken place in the Czech Republic. EGAM is counting on organizing similar testing next year as well.
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