Basic Information on Social Housing

Social housing is housing provided to people who are in danger of or facing a crisis in the terms of housing. This includes low-income households that spend a disproportionate amount of their income on rent. The beneficiaries of social housing are, if needed, provided with an additional support of social workers. Social housing at local level always takes the form of a flat tenancy and can be connected to social services such as emergency houses or shelters.

To be in social housing means getting standard housing unit located outside socially excluded localities (if possible). Social housing allocation is based on needs assessment, especially in case of a housing crisis. The homes provided through social housing are usually accompanied by social work, depending on the beneficiary’s needs and the results of social investigations conducted by social workers. The extent and intensity of social work support is determined individually, with respect to the particular social, economic and health situation of the household´s members.

In cases when the beneficiary does not require (further) social support, social housing provided without the social work is sometimes referred to as affordable housing.

The local system of social housing may include elements of emergency housing, such as homeless shelters, which are effective tools of support in dealing with crisis situations. Furthermore, we talk about rental apartments allocated for social housing with special procedures that allow accelerating the approval of a rental contract or a leasing agreement. Both of these are short-term forms of accommodation, usually provided for up to one year.

Social Housing Beneficiaries

Social housing in Czech Republic is provided with a priority to the target group of homeless people, as defined by the ETHOS typology as persons who are:

  • Roofless (without a shelter of any kind, sleeping rough)
  • Houseless (with a place to sleep but temporary in institutions or shelters)
  • Living in insecure housing (threatened with severe exclusion due to insecure tenancies, eviction, domestic violence)
  • Living in inadequate housing (in caravans on illegal campsites, in unfit housing, in extreme overcrowding).

Moreover, the concept of social housing aims to support those who, despite receiving the social housing benefits, spend a significant amount of their income on housing (more than 40% of disposable income). The concept also provides a solution to those who for various reasons cannot address their housing situation by common tools in the housing market (by moving to a cheaper sustainable housing, selling their own housing or renting it). Given the specificity of social housing, it is relevant to include in the definition of the target group also the amount of disposable income remaining to households after the cost of housing has been paid. According to the general guideline in the Czech Republic, 1.6 times the subsistence level is recommended as the minimum threshold for a household. However, this limit can vary depending on local specifics and characteristics.

Social Housing principles

  • Solidarity principle: The basic principle of the state’s social policy. Social solidarity builds and reinforces social unity within the society. In the context of social housing, solidarity allows state intervention to be directed towards those in need.
  • Tenancy principle: the goal is to have everyone live in standard housing, not in emergency or temporary accommodation, as such conditions often further aggravate the social situation, both for those in need and the community as a whole.
  • Necessity principle: social housing should be provided to people in social or housing need, therefore based on need, not the so called “merit”, which has nothing to do with housing (being debt-free, looking for work, children’s school attendance etc.). Following this principle however does not mean that the client is free from obligations and rules included in the tenancy contract. These rules include: responsible rent payment, diligent care for the housing unit, cooperation with the assigned social worker and progress toward removing incurred debts – should these or any other conditions be set in the contract. It is necessary to prioritise the most endangered people, those with the most pressing need, thus stopping their social downfall and enabling a solution to their situation to be found. In order to identify people in need reliably and for reasons of transparency, it is recommended that municipalities establish tools and guidelines for the assessment of accommodation crises.
  • Non-discrimination principle: the law prohibits racial, ethnical, national, gender, age, sexual orientation, health, religion, or ideological discrimination. Both direct and indirect discrimination is prohibited. Direct discrimination being a situation (action), when a person is not afforded access to social housing, or provided a less fitting social housing based on one of the aforementioned categories. Lower quality housing, or housing in a social exclusion area are considered less fitting, as is housing in an area with limited or no access to work or adequate public services, especially schools. Direct discrimination also includes segregation – the spatial concentration of members of a given group (mostly ethnic) caused by the government. E.g. the practice of housing Roma families in a particular area and non-Roma clients elsewhere. Indirect discrimination is the practice of awarding subsidies based on neutral and objective rules, which in actual practice lead to preferential treatment of a particular group.
  • Individual and differentiated approach principle: both the framework and the tools of social housing must be able to react to the varying needs of individual clients – this should apply from the very first instance of housing insecurity (prevention), until the re-entry to market housing. An effective and efficient system of social housing should include a wide spectrum of tools – from informational support and social work, to social housing itself. Services and aid should be offered on an individual basis so that families and individuals may use them per their personal needs.

 

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