Sunday, 22 January 2017

Activists insisting on social housing law to be approved

ČTK |
6 January 2017

Prague, Jan 5 (CTK) - Some 80 organisations, experts and prominent personalities have called on the government to discuss the social housing bill and send it to the Chamber of Deputies by the end of January, Stepan Ripka, the Social Housing Platform leader, told journalists on Thursday.

Or else, the legislation will not be enacted before the autumn election to the Chamber of Deputies, Ripka warned.

The organisations and experts are associated by the latest Having One's Own Home group.

Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka and Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksova (both Social Democrats, CSSD) said the latest legislation was a compromise with a good chance of being passed.

According to the original government plans, the social housing law was to take effect this January.

However, the coalition government parties have not agreed on its final version.

The latest form says that social housing should be provided by the new state organ called the Social Housing Centre.

The town halls would only provide for the flats if they joined it in their own right. Then they would be entitled to subsidies.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) has said the legislation is one of the ten government priorities before the election.

"The social housing law has been tremendously delayed. If the government does not pass it by the end of January, there will be no chance of making it through the legislative process in the parliament, though it is described as one of the government priorities," Ripka said.

Ripka said that the government parties had pledged to pass the draft and enact the law in their coalition pact and programme.

The government has passed a social housing concept.

"Now they seem to be unable to agree on a quality bill," Ripka said.

"This is due to a pressure of various lobbies and obstructions by some ministries. Now there is the last chance to enact the law," Ripka said.

Ripka said the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry data had revealed that last year, 187,000 Czechs faced housing problems.

These are mainly lone mothers, victims of home violence, the elderly and the disabled, he added.

The legislation is to be supported by a campaign the group launched on Thursday.

The activists also staged a protest rally outside the government building. They played a scene in which owners of private housing facilities were described as "dealers in poverty" who rejoice at a table with champagne at being able to paid much money from the people in need for their overpriced and poor accommodation.

Only a minor debate may take place on the compromise version of the social housing bill. Thanks to this, there is a chance of enacting it before the election, Chvojka and Marksova said.

It would not include the duty of the town halls to provide those in need with social housing, they added.

In the original version, the municipalities were to ensure social housing.

"If the principle were compulsory, not voluntary, the bill may not be enacted at all," Chvojka said.

"There was a choice between the bill being enacted with the voluntary principle or with the duty," he added.

"This would not be backed by the municipalities, many deputies and other parties. The bill would be torpedoed," Chvojka said.

The voluntary participation of the municipalities is the only chance with which the bill "may be enacted in a bearable version," he added.

Setting down the duty for the municipalities would be ideal, Marksova said.

"However, we do not live in any ideal world. A compromise is better than nothing," Marksova said.

According to the latest version, the new office is to have regional branches and contact centres across the Czech Republic, similar to job offices.

It is to evaluate the situation of the applicants and it is to provide an accessible or social flat to those in need within three years.

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