First Czech real estate agency motivated by social responsibility in the Plzeň Region opens for business
The crisis around housing in the Czech Republic is intensifying, with access to fair rental housing far from guaranteed to all groups in society - and not just in the Plzeň Region. There is no social housing law, and the long waiting times and strict conditions to qualify for the rental housing managed by many municipalities are making the problems associated with this crisis even worse.
The Centre for Community Organising of Western Bohemia (Centrum pro komunitní práci západní Čechy) has issued a press release announcing that they have now begun to offer what they are calling "socially responsible real estate services" to property owners in Plzeň and surrounding areas under the brand name "More Than Just Housing" („Víc než jen bydlení“). Their stated purpose is to provide "above-standard" services to property owners renting out apartment units while also giving a chance to those people who frequently are unable to access dignified housing on their own.
The reason people cannot access such housing is that they have spent their lives in social exclusion and many property owners are prejudiced against them - factors that most of society never has to grapple with. The "More Than Just Housing" project appeals to landlords to consider that living in decent housing should be an absolutely basic assumption for all those who want to develop their own lives and those of their children, irrespective of their ethnic or social origin.
The chance to rent housing for a fair price in an ordinary neighborhood is a motivating opportunity for people who are usually accustomed to rejection. At the same time, however, in some cases such people need support to take advantage of such opportunities in the first place.
For that reason, the aim of the project is not just high-quality care for the real estate entrusted to the tenants, but also support for them so that the rental relationship will be correct and sustainable in the long term. "This is about combining our real estate services offered to property owners in the form of certain follow-up services and guarantees with high-quality social work to support the tenants and thereby prevent problems," says Jan Martínek, director of the Centre for Community Organising of Western Bohemia, which is implementing the project.
According to the Centre, the key to success is not just detecting and resolving problems in time, but also minimizing the risks always associated with renting apartment units or single-family houses. Project staffers regularly inspect the state of repair of properties, the payment of rent, and relationships with neighbors.
Support in the form of social work is given by local providers of social services - the regional branch of the People in Need organization and the Here and Now Association in the Plzeň Region. The selection of tenants happens in collaboration with those nonprofits.
Emphasis is placed on a tenant's financial options and potential to succeed in renting from commercial owners - the service does not ask cooperating landlords to artificially lower rents, but respects the prices that are customary for that location and point in time. "We are aware of our liability to the property owner and therefore we emphasize objective, responsible assessments of potential renters," says Adam Pospíšil, coordinator of the project for property owners.
The "More Than Just Housing" project is following up on experiences from other regions where similar services function and is also taking advantage of the findings of the Platform for Social Housing. In Western Europe - for example, in Belgium or France - socially responsible real estate agencies are stable players in local rental housing markets.
The launch of the first such service in the Plzeň Region gives property owners who want to support solving the housing crisis without prejudice an opportunity to get involved while also offering them the certainty that their real estate will be cared for with the maximum possible professionalism and responsibility. "If you want to spare yourself the worries involved with the appropriate leasing of an apartment unit or house while at the same time making a contribution toward the improvement of the situations of people who are endangered by social exclusion, you can find more information on our website, vicnezjenbydleni.cz," Martínek says.
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