Labour minister proposes 15 measures to tackle poverty trade

On Monday, the minister of labour and social affairs called for a wide-ranging interdepartmental effort to sort out the issue of rogue landlords preying on families living in socially excluded localities. A list of 15 specific measures will act as a common thread in the preparation of a series of government proposals aimed at limiting the poverty trade business.

Illustrative photo: Czech TelevisionIllustrative photo: Czech Television A combination of generous housing benefits, digitally illiterate tenants and rogue landlords has led to a paradox noticeable in many Czech towns. Members of underprivileged and socially excluded groups, living in shoddy lodging houses, often pay the same rent as if they lived in a luxury apartment.

Politicians as well as the public have been aware of this problem for years and successive governments have pledged to come up with legislation eliminating the problem. Until now however, no such proposal has passed through parliament.

On Monday, following a meeting of dozens of experts from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Labour Minister Jana Maláčová, issued a renewed call in the fight to tackle the poverty business.

Jana Maláčová, photo: ČTK/Roman VondroušJana Maláčová, photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš “We have agreed on 15 points that need to be dealt with and sent them on to our colleagues at selected ministries. With their help, we intend to start coming up with a package of proposals.

“To get things done quickly, we will prioritise according to time and two themes: helping people in socially excluded localities and tackling the rogue landlords preying on them.”

The 15 points include creating local price maps of average rent, determining the maximum amount of persons that can live in any given space and merging various individual benefits into a single pay out.

Prime Minister Babiš who was present at the meeting said he was sceptical regarding an independent social housing legislation, which civic associations had been pushing for.

Instead he places much promise into the Ministry of Regional Development’s new building programme, which will provide state subsidies for municipalities erecting new flats.

Kumar Vishwanathan, photo: Daniela Kantorova, CC BY 2.0Kumar Vishwanathan, photo: Daniela Kantorova, CC BY 2.0 “The housing programme prepared by Regional Development Minister Dostálová deals with this problem, because it defines 50 categories of people in need of social help, about 65 000 in total. Let the municipalities build these flats and, if they decide to do that, the state will give them a 100 percent subsidy.”

Kumar Vishwanathan, who is the director of Vzájemné soužití, an Ostrava based NGO, focused on helping the socially excluded, has mixed feelings about the announcement.

“I am a proponent of affordable flat construction and I believe that the PM’s decision will start solving this problem. At the same time I’d like to say that we certainly do not expect it to work as some sort of system wide solution to the problem.

"Still, at least there is some will here and I hope that this government effort will one day lead to legislation on social housing.”