Vojtěch Lavička: Czech law on areas without housing assistance is an attack on human dignity

As Romea.cz readers are no doubt all aware, the Czech Constitutional Court abolished part of the law on assistance to people in material distress which facilitated the creation of local areas where housing allowances would not be paid to residents. . After four long years of waiting, the court finally accepted the petition filed in this case by 17 senators.

Areas without housing allowances, or “bad” addresses where new tenants could not receive housing allowances, have been frequently presented by the media and Czech politicians as an effective instrument against “trafficking in poverty”. It is absolutely impossible to agree with this statement.

The number of socially excluded localities, according to qualified estimates, has definitely not decreased as a result of this measure – on the contrary, new localities are created as the larger ones “collapse” into several smaller ones. The exploitation of the poor has actively flourished and continues to do so.

The growth of socially excluded localities proves the following fact – the ordinances on the establishment of zones without allowances have just moved the problem from one place where there is a ghetto to another, whether in that same city or through migration from the outside. ‘desperate residents to another city where the no-benefit zones have yet to be instituted. Real estate speculators can do the same – and they do.

The zones only targeted new tenants moving into the “wrong” addresses. The local authorities assumed that these people would behave in an “asocial” manner, and so this did not allow them to perceive benefits to live there.

Based on such absurd predictions, people were denied money to which they were otherwise entitled under state law. It is clearly discrimination.

Just because you’ve found accommodation that meets your needs (or is the only accommodation available) at a specific address doesn’t mean the city can assume you will be a thief, drug addict, thug, or “just” a thief. troublemaker. Paradoxically, this law, preferred by mayors, has more favored local poverty instead of preventing it.

How is it going ? Here is a simple example.

Imagine that you are a family of five living in Přerov, that you are Roma and that you have to move. You are impoverished, none of the adult family members have a job and at your current residence you receive – in accordance with the law – a housing allowance from the State.

For you as a Roma family it will be quite difficult to find accommodation in a part of Přerov where everything is “smooth”, because no landlord there will want you because of your ethnicity. You will be able to settle in a district close to the station, but the municipality has decreed several free zones in this district, so of course you will not be able to receive the housing allowance to live there and you will not be able to cope economically.

You don’t want to move to another city, because your relatives live in Přerov and your three children go to school there. So eventually you end up moving to an area where you can’t perceive any benefits, hoping that you will find the funding to live there somehow, which makes you vulnerable to others. manipulations.

I think this example is absolutely clear, and different variations on this theme have played out here more than once in recent years. Municipal officials often do not want to understand that poor people did not freely choose to settle in free zones, but that this was for them a solution to the crisis, the only one they had left.

The only other alternative would have been to sleep in the street with their children. Clearly, no one would voluntarily move to a place where they would lose the essential funding that ensures they can pay their rent.

No one in their right mind can believe that the ghettos will ever disappear entirely from the Czech Republic, they are created by the existence of poverty, which predetermines behavior to some extent. If, as mayor, you sanction impoverished residents in this way, then you can make it harder for them to access the resources they need to keep body and soul together, or you can even make it absolutely impossible – but the problem doesn’t. will not go away.

These people will just leave so you don’t have to see them in your town – for a while, at least. Moreover, anyone who has read the reactions of mayors and other municipal officials to the abolition of free zones will quickly understand that in reality it was never a question of fighting against rental speculators.

Local authorities have an effective weapon to use in the war against speculators who charge exorbitant rents – but most of them never take advantage. The law stipulates that the Labor Office will not pay any benefit if it is clearly not used for the purposes for which it was intended.

If therefore the quality of the accommodation does not correspond to the purpose of the service (to obtain suitable accommodation), then the Labor Office could and should have sought and found a solution for these people who were at the mercy of the traffickers. in poverty, on the basis of a proposal from the local administration of the Labor Office, in collaboration with the municipal authorities responsible for dealing with these issues (those which are currently creating these free zones), and the solution should have been other suitable accommodation above all. The possibility of preventing the growth of these “socially undesirable phenomena”, in other words, has always been offered to municipalities even before the law allowed them to establish free zones.

The above argument was made by the Constitutional Court when it agreed with the senators that the amendment which allowed zones without social benefits was an attack on human dignity, violates the principle of equality, contravenes the freedom of movement and residence, interferes with free trade and has not achieved its stated objective. It will be interesting to follow how municipalities proceed from now on, or what other problematic changes to the Material Distress Act are proposed by other lawmakers.

I am, of course, skeptical of future developments, and not just in socially excluded localities. It’s great that free zones have been abolished, but politicians should change their view of social work and poverty reduction to achieve essential and positive changes, they should stop categorizing people as ‘decent’, ” the most decent “,” less decent “,” indecent “,” bad “, etc.

This will not happen immediately. Politicians are only a reflection of the state of our society, they cannot be anything else.

The demand of this society does not allow politicians to express empathy for certain people – it would be anachronistic now for them to do so. I hope I’m wrong about this, however.

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