Social housing pilot in Ostrava promotes inclusion in the Czech Republic
Ostrava, the Czech Republic’s third largest city, has piloted social housing to improve social inclusion in the Moravian-Silesian region. The project has renovated 105 apartments for families who would otherwise live in sub-standard housing, with five set aside as emergency homes. It has also developed processes to access housing, a framework to cooperate with city districts, and social support for tenants. Tenants can more easily stabilise their lives and participate in society, while their low rent returns a profit to the city.
" The project establishes a local social housing system. It responds to the high number of people excluded from housing and to the absence of a Social Housing Act. We are convinced that quality housing and social worker support give families a chance to settle, feel secure and create a home. "
The Czech Republic has a shortage of affordable rental homes and no national social housing law. The City of Ostrava has responded by developing its own social housing system. It has renovated municipal apartments near transport and services, fitting them out with kitchen appliances and, for emergency homes, furniture.
Tenants, who cannot afford private rents or are in crisis, are selected by need and receive help to overcome problems. Once in secure, decent homes, families find it easier to work, see their children do better at school and report an improved quality of life.
Meeting a need together
Thousands of people in Ostrava alone live in in sub-standard housing such as hostels, paid for by the national social security system, or in locations without jobs or services. This leaves them marginalised from mainstream society. Thousands of others depend on social benefits or are in difficult personal situations, making them vulnerable to homelessness.
The City of Ostrava has piloted its social housing in locations that could help such people improve their situation. It set aside municipal apartments as they became available in its six most densely-built and populated districts. Basic repairs, renovation and furnishing allow families to move in quickly and cheaply. Tenants pay rent to the city at half the cost of the usual private rent for similar properties.
Homes are allocated according to a score for the severity of people’s housing problems. Single mothers receive a bonus score as they are more likely to live in low-standard housing or shelters.
A wide range of actors, including people with housing problems, have helped to create, test and evaluate this strategy. Formal stakeholders included municipal districts, NGOs, public universities, a private housing provider, an energy company and national government departments. Social workers have played a central role. They helped to assess community planning and support for social homes while building links with NGOs.
A system that works
The project‘s system is making social housing part of Ostrava’s long-term inclusiveness strategy. As well as developing processes for the system, the pilot has clarified staffing requirements and the role of social workers. Cooperation between the different stakeholders has been central to its success. The social housing system is designed to become self-financing as rental income pays off the costs of renovations and as spending on hostels decreases.
Project members are continuing to work on their action plan for the system. Ongoing collection of data from households helps them to assess its long-term impact.
At a national level, cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is allowing the project to influence social housing legislation and to help to create methodologies for other parts of the Czech Republic. In particular, it is a positive example of policies that could benefit the Moravian-Silesian region.
“A social flat was assigned to me in August 2017 after a difficult end to my marriage. Living here has brought me – and above all my children – the freedom not to have to see my ex-husband. We have a roof over our heads and feel safe and secure.”
Jiřina Vaníčková, tenant of a flat redeveloped by the project
“In the past, the four of us lived in a studio in a noisy hostel. People looked down on us for where we lived and we paid a high rent. Now we can say that we live in a flat and friends like to visit us here. We pay only half our old rent for our two-bedroomed home and our sons’ behaviour has improved. They have their own room, the building is quieter and they can play safely outdoors in a newly refurbished playground that we can see from our home".
Mrs Judita Helmeciová, tenant of a flat redeveloped by the project.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Social Housing in the City OF Ostrava” is EUR 540 489, with the EU’s European Social Fund contributing EUR 459 416 through the “Employment” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priorities “fighting poverty” and “social innovation and transnational cooperation”.