Prague Approves New Rules for Social Housing, Despite Criticism

Prague has approved new rules for allocating social housing after months of criticism from non-governmental organizations, opposition party Prague Sobě, and coalition party Pirates. The new rules were approved by city councilors but not by Pirates members. The document retains a points system for homes designated for people in social distress, which will be transferred from the city administration to the Prague Social Services Center (CSSP).

According to a previous analysis, Prague owns around 7,000 apartments, while the city districts manage approximately 23,000 others and decide on rentals. The new municipal rules include five categories of people eligible to apply for council housing. In addition to the existing criteria for seniors, people with disabilities, those in social distress, and representatives of essential professions, young families have been added.

CSSP has created a methodology that retains the points system for homes designated for people in social distress, said Alexandra Udženija, deputy mayor for social affairs. She added that CSSP, a municipal subsidiary responsible for helping the socially disadvantaged, has better expertise and field experience in allocating homes.

Pirates councilors did not support the new rules, mainly because the points system was retained only for social housing, while it previously applied to seniors as well. The Pirates’ club believes that the points system should also be applied to the newly introduced category of young families.

Magdalena Valdmanová, chairwoman of the housing committee, said, “We certainly do not regard the discussion about housing allocation rules as over, and we will strive to develop appropriate methodologies and modify issues that will be difficult to implement in practice according to expert opinion.” She added that the approval of such an important document by a majority of two votes is a “terrible signal.”

Udženija said that she does not object to future changes to the rules. “I have no problem opening that debate and changing some provisions based on practice,” she said. “I want to convince my colleagues that these rules will work, that they do not forget anyone, and that they are socially sensitive.” She added that councilors also approved that CSSP must inform the council of any changes to its methodology.

The Platform for Social Housing, a non-profit organization, criticized the previous proposal for rules, notably the cancellation of the points system, which was ultimately retained only for social housing. According to the platform, the entry criteria for the proposal are set too strictly, do not sufficiently target people in housing distress, and the requirement for permanent or proven factual residence in the metropolis for at least five years is problematic.

The organization continues to criticize the new rules, even though the final document has undergone several significant changes in a positive direction compared to the initial proposal. However, according to the organization, the approved rules still contain many elements that will significantly reduce the access of people in housing distress to council housing. Moreover, they lack a transparent mechanism for selecting tenants in several categories of apartments, which creates a significant 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, highlight the problems that the new system will generate,” said platform chairman Jan Snopek.

Opposition party Prague Sobě also criticized the new proposal. “The deed of destruction is done. The most endangered and needy families, seniors, and other Prague residents have just lost an important city aid – the hope for a safe home,” said party leader Jan Čižinský on social media after the councilors’ decision. He added that the new rules are opaque, and the weakest are left out.