Prague councillors approve modified rules for social housing, Pirates criticize them

by   CIJ News iDesk III
2023-09-12   08:37

Prague has new rules for allocating urban rental flats, which have faced criticism in recent months from NGOs, the opposition Prague Soba and the coalition Pirates. The new version of the rules was approved today by city councillors, but not supported by councillors from the Pirates. Compared to the original proposal, the document retains the points system for flats for people in social distress, the allocation of which will be transferred from the municipal department to the Prague Social Services Centre (CSSP).

According to an earlier analysis, Prague owns about 7,000 flats, while another 23,000 or so are managed by the city districts, which decide on their own leases. The new rules of the municipality provide for five categories of people who are entitled to apply to the municipality for a rented flat. In addition to the existing seniors, people with disabilities, people in social distress and representatives of professions important to the city, the new rules add young families.

"The CSSP has made its own methodology, in which it has kept the point system," said Deputy Mayor for Social Affairs Alexandra Udzhenija (ODS) about the apartments intended for people in social distress. She added that the CSSP, as a municipal contributory organisation in charge of helping the socially vulnerable, has better expertise and experience from the field for allocating flats.

The new wording of the rules was not supported by the Pirate councillors, whose member Adam Zábranský (Pirates) was responsible for drafting the current wording during the last term as housing councillor. He now heads the city as a property councillor. The Pirates particularly dislike the fact that the points system has been retained only for social housing, while it has been applied to the elderly, while the Pirate club believes it should also be set up for the newly introduced category of young families.

"We certainly do not consider the discussion on the rules for allocating flats to be over and we will strive to complete the relevant methodologies and adjust things that, in the opinion of experts, will be difficult to operate in practice," said Magdalena Valdmanová (Pirates), chair of the housing committee. She added that they consider the approval of such an important document by a majority of two votes to be "a very bad signal".

Udženiya commented that she is not opposed to future modifications of the rules. "I have no problem at all to open the debate and change some provisions based on practice," she said. "I really want to convince my colleagues that the rules will work, that they do not forget anyone and are socially sensitive," she added. She said councillors also approved that if CSSP makes changes to its methodology, it must inform the council of those changes.

An earlier draft of the rules was criticized by the Platform for Social Housing, a non-profit organization that did not like the abolition of the points system, which was ultimately retained for social housing. According to the Platform, the draft sets the entry criteria too strictly, does not sufficiently target people in housing need, and the condition of permanent or proven effective residence in the metropolis for at least five years is also problematic.

The Platform continues to criticise the rules, although it says the final document has undergone some significant changes in a positive direction compared to the first draft. Even so, the organisation says the approved rules contain a number of things that will significantly reduce access to urban rental housing for people in housing need. At the same time, they lack a transparent mechanism for selecting tenants for several categories of apartments, which creates a great potential for corruption, the association said in a press release. "As the Platform for Social Housing, we will continue to monitor the situation and, in cooperation with other non-profit organizations, draw attention to the problems that the new system will generate," said Jan Snopek, the platform's chairman.

The new plan has also been criticised by the opposition Prague Sobě party. "The work of destruction has been completed. The most vulnerable and needy families, seniors and other Prague residents have just lost important help from the city - the hope of a safe home," its leader Jan Čižinský said on social media today after the councillors' decision. He said the new rules are non-transparent and leave out the weakest.

Source: CTK