Are ghettos of the poor to arise in north Bohemia?

Chomutov, photo: Marounek, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

The number of poor people and rent dodgers has been growing rapidly in some areas in north Bohemia. The reason - availability of extremely cheap housing. Property owners from around the country have found a cheap and simple way of getting rid of problematic tenants. At the same time, it is a solution for poor families who can no longer afford to pay high rents in Prague and other big cities. Local authorities have expressed concern about the development and are seeking ways to fight it.

Chomutov,  photo: Marounek,  CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported
North Bohemian towns, such as Most and Chomutov, which are affected by the highest unemployment rate in the country, offer an abundance of cheap housing. A standard three-room flat in Chomutov costs 200 to 250 thousand crowns, whereas in Prague, it can be ten times more.

Property owners who need to get rid of rent defaulters or otherwise unwelcome tenants quickly, buy them a flat in the North and even pay them compensation to empty lucrative apartments in Prague. This is particularly common for tenants in flats that are subject to rent control, a much-criticised remnant of the communist era. The investment is said to pay off in three years as new tenants are charged disproportionately higher rents.

Selling their flat in Prague and moving to a cheaper location is also a welcome solution for people who can hardly bear the cost of living in the capital city, such as pensioners, single mothers, and the unemployed.

The trend is worrying local authorities and property owners: the former because of the concentration of poor people in the area, the latter because they may get an unwelcome tenant without being able to influence it. That is why they have been seeking ways to fight this phenomenon.

The Ministry for Local Development says a planned amendment to the Civil Code should strengthen the rights of property owners. Local authorities who own the affected property have started implementing stricter rules for privatising flats, giving preference to local citizens.