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More poor people end up in state-subsidised hostels

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Prague, July 24 (CTK) – The number of poor people who move to overpriced hostels and tiny flats, the owners of which receive most of the rent from the state, more than doubled over the past five years, daily Pravo has written in its Saturday issue.

In 2011, the state paid housing subsidies of 850 million crowns on behalf of 26,530 people. Last year, the state paid out 3100 million crowns in these subsidies that were claimed by 65,100 people, the paper writes, citing data of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry.

About 44 percent of those living in the state-subsidised hostels are families with children and about 23 percent are single mothers with children.

The following story is typical. A mother with two small children from South Moravia recently decided to leave her violent partner and live without him. As there was no vacancy in the shelter home and she did not have money to pay the refundable deposit required by owners of rental housing, she had to resort to a hostel that has a high rent, although the living conditions do not correspond to it, but a part of the rent is covered by the state and no deposit is required, Pravo writes.

The hostel is located in an industrial zone and there is neither a park nor a playground in the neighbourhood so that the woman’s children have nowhere to meet their peers. As a result, they spend their time in the small room watching TV or in the hallway. The lavatory is in such a bad state that the mother does not let the children go to the toilet and they use a potty instead.

There is one cooking stove for more than a dozen families, which means that people must take turns and the mother must get up very early to do the cooking. It is hard to sleep during the nights because the place is very noisy.

The state tried to regulate “the business with poverty,” which is how the operators of state-subsidised hostels for the poor are dubbed, but its effort succeeded only partly, the paper writes.

The business with poverty has recently been moving to housing estates on the outskirts of towns.

A government report concludes that the spending on subsidised rents rose due to an increase in rents and power supplies and the stagnation of household incomes, Pravo writes.

But Stepan Ripka, from the Platform for Social Accommodation, considers this explanation insufficient.

Ripka says the operators of shabby hostels only abuse the fact that the state fails to deal with the lack of flats.

Until recently, the operators could demand very high rents for low quality accommodation.

In 2015, the state introduced rules for the hostel operators that limit the sum that is covered and it set sanitary and technical standards for the hostels. This cut the number of subsidy recipients from 70,175 in 2014 to 65,111 in 2015, Pravo writes.

However, Ripka said the new rules harm many poor people because the state now pays a smaller part of their rents and they must pay the rest and do not have money for food or medicines.

A factor that contributed to the bad situation was the privatisation of municipal flats. Families could buy the flat they rented, buy if a family did not have the money that the municipality required, it lost the flat, Ripka told the paper.

He said the chance of returning from a subsidised hostel to standard accommodation and reintegrate into society is very low. As a result, more and more people end up in the hostels, Ripka added.

In Western countries, the model of providing immediate aid to the family in need by moving the people to a shelter home and then temporarily in a standard flat proved successful, he said.

“When people move to better conditions, it helps them become active, settle their situation, plan and deal with their problems,” Ripka told Pravo.

The paper writes that parameters of dignified housing should be defined and guaranteed by municipalities that can negotiate about rental flats more effectively than individuals. The state should provide finances for the rents and possibly also for the construction of social housing. Such a solution would be less costly for the state because fewer people would get trapped in the subsidised hostels, Pravo writes.

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