Ostrava is reducing the number of people in precarious housing situations

7/3 2024

The City of Ostrava is actively helping people in precarious housing situations through a major social housing project. The City Authority provides various forms of support to people in different life situations, all designed to combat housing-related problems affecting Ostrava's citizens.

Ostrava is reducing the number of people in precarious housing situations

A recent meeting to focus on social housing. Photograph: Jiří Zerzoň

As part of this unique project, we provide counselling, social housing, and follow-up social work support to households that have already been placed in social housing. Ostrava was the first city in the Moravian-Silesian Region to launch a project focusing on households in precarious housing situations, and a Housing Contact Point has been set up as part of the project.

The Czech Republic's Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka explained the national-level approach to the issue: "Housing-related support is a key priority for our Ministry. In an economically challenging situation and an energy cost crisis, the most effective form of immediate state support is housing benefit payments, which are a quick way of helping people to cover housing-related costs. These benefits are often received by families and senior citizens. However, we are also implementing a number of systematic concepts which will help to improve the current situation and tackle issues of housing affordability, particularly for young people. The Ministry is running a project whose main aim is to expand social housing provision across the entire Czech Republic. We are also planning major legislative changes; we are working with the Ministry of Regional Development to draft a new law on housing support."

Ostrava has three thousand households in a precarious housing situation, who face a range of serious problems: some are homeless, some live in temporary shelters or commercial hostel-type accommodation, and others are in insecure or unsuitable housing. Deputy Mayor Zbyněk Pražák gave more details about the situation locally: "Especially in recent years, housing-related problems have affected increasing numbers of households who are unable to overcome these problems on their own. That's why we consider it hugely important for the City to help people improve their situation. We're working actively with Ostrava's individual municipal districts and the rental accommodation provider Heimstaden to set aside some apartments as dedicated social housing. Our social workers are also providing essential support to households that have already been placed in social housing, helping to ensure that they do not revert to a precarious situation; these support structures include individually tailored cooperation plans with clearly defined goals."

The City of Ostrava works closely with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to enhance its social housing provision, and it is also involved in projects run by the Ministry of Regional Development – which is responsible for drafting legislation on housing-related support. Experiences from Ostrava are thus transferred to the national level, and have a direct input into new legislation. Ostrava's current project – entitled "Development of Social Housing" – will run until October 2025.

Mayor Jan Dohnal gave more details: "We have been implementing social housing projects since 2017, and since then we have housed 601 people (323 adults and 278 children) in social apartments. These clients formerly experienced highly challenging life situations. Social work is a key element in our social housing support policy; our social workers are currently helping 82 households. This form of support is highly effective; over 85 percent of people placed in social housing succeed in keeping their homes, and this has a major impact on their quality of life."

Ostrava's Housing Contact Point offers counselling services and receives applications for social housing. It is located in the main Ostrava City Authority building, and since it opened in November 2022 it has served over a thousand clients (1 044 to date). Staff provide citizens with advice on how best to deal with their housing-related problems (including a shortage of money to pay rent), and clients can also submit applications for social apartments. Housing Contact Points are one of the key pillars in new legislation currently being drafted by the Ministry of Regional Development in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.