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22 listopada 2022

‘Refugees are to cover part of the cost of their stay’. Will the government’s plan help Ukrainians without a roof over their heads?

The government is referring to people staying in collective accommodation, who have found employment. The idea is criticized by experts: ‘This is intervention aid, which should be free of charge. Increasingly more people do not have accommodation. The government should solve the problem systemically.’

Publikujemy angielskie tłumaczenie tekstu Julii Theus. „Uchodźcy mają pokrywać część kosztów pobytu. Czy plan rządu pomoże Ukraińcom bez dachu nad głową?”, opublikowanego w OKO.press 6 października 2022 r.

JESTEŚMY TU RAZEM

Powoli wyczerpują się zasoby dobrej woli i możliwości pomocy ukraińskim rodzinom, które ratując się przed rosyjską agresją, próbują w Polsce mieszkać, pracować i uczyć się. Państwo nie wspiera już Polek i Polaków, którzy przyjmują uchodźców. Czas na nowo ułożyć relacje i szukać rozwiązań. Chcemy w OKO.press opisywać historie gości z Ukrainy, usłyszeć je od was. Czekamy też na listy polskich pracodawców, gospodarzy, wszystkich osób, które chcą napisać komentarz lub zgłosić pomysł. Piszcie na adres [email protected].

МИ ТУТ РАЗОМ

Поволі вичерпуються ресурси доброї волі та можливості допомоги українським родинам, які, рятуючись від російської агресії, намагаються жити, працювати та навчатися в Польщі. Держава більше не підтримує польок та поляків, які приймають біженців. Настав час заново формувати стосунки та шукати рішення. В OKO.press ми хочемо описати історії гостей з України, почути їх від вас. Також чекаємо на листи від польських роботодавців, господарів та всіх, хто бажає написати коментар чи подати ідею. Пишіть на [email protected].

Publikujemy angielskie tłumaczenie tekstu Julii Theus. „Uchodźcy mają pokrywać część kosztów pobytu. Czy plan rządu pomoże Ukraińcom bez dachu nad głową?”, opublikowanego w OKO.press 6 października 2022 r.

The Ukrainians who are living in collective accommodation are to cover part of the costs of their stay. This is a new idea the government is working on.

‘We are surveying people who live in collective accommodation. More than 50% of them have already taken up employment. Therefore, these people need to start contributing to the costs that the government is bearing for living in these places. The proposals we are working on will be presented in the coming days,’ said Paweł Szefernaker, the official responsible for war refugees from Ukraine, deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration.

It is not yet clear how many people have fled from the war in Ukraine, and exactly how they are to contribute to the costs. But one thing is certain. Collective accommodation is a shelter for refugees in times of crisis. Aid is necessary to ensure that they can survive through the most difficult period. Should it be paid for? What solutions should the government introduce first?

We asked Katarzyna Przybylska of the Habitat for Humanity Poland Foundation about this.

Collective accommodation and what next?

Ukrainian women with children – because it is predominantly women who are among those coming to Poland – are having increasing problems finding or paying for accommodation themselves.

The places of collective accommodation house people who have fled from the war and have no place to stay. These are places managed by both the public administration and NGOs or private entities (the map of places offering aid to refugees can be found at mapujpomoc.pl).

By definition, they should be a temporary place of stay. However, Katarzyna Przybylska explains to OKO.press that many Ukrainians are staying there longer.

‘Some people are living in collective accommodation for a very long time because there are no comprehensive solutions that would allow them to become independent in terms of housing,’ she says. ‘The barrier in access to the rental market and the increase in prices is the biggest problem for people who have fled Ukraine.’

Queues for housing are increasingly longer

Finding a flat for rent is a huge financial problem for refugees. Even if – despite the language barrier and the lack of childcare – people from Ukraine manage to find work, they earn so little that they cannot afford to rent their own flat and support their family.

‘If they have several members of the family to support, their options are limited,’ says Przybylska.

And if a person from Ukraine earns enough to rent a flat, they bounce around the market. Because it happens that landlords do not want to rent flats to refugees.

Therefore, the Habitat for Humanity Poland Foundation runs a social rental programme for people in need. It rents flats from landlords and sublets them to people from Ukraine and people in need of housing.

‘We are now renting 165 flats and are supporting more than 440 people in Warsaw and in the Silesian Voivodship. These numbers are constantly increasing. We have a long list of people in need who have come to us for help,’ says Przybylska.

Intervention aid should not be paid for

In such a situation, should refugees – as the government is proposing – contribute to the costs of maintenance of places of collective accommodation?

‘This is interventionist social welfare that should not be paid for,’ responds Przybylska.

After all, it’s difficult to imagine that some people from Ukraine would have to pay for ‘aid’ because they have found work while others have not. If the government’s idea were to come into effect, it would have to be subject to an income criterion.

‘The idea that people who have accommodation at the centres and have a job should contribute to the cost of maintenance should be based on an income criterion. The amount of the contribution would have to depend on how many people the given person has to support,’ Katarzyna Chimiak of the Institute of Public Affairs tells OKO.press.

She emphasizes that it is mainly women with children who have come from Ukraine. Some of them are working in jobs that are below their qualifications and have low incomes or work part-time.

‘This should therefore be specified for the family’s individual situation. It could transpire that the benefit for the state is minimal. It might be more worthwhile to look for co-financing of the costs of accommodation,’ the expert emphasizes.

Systemic solutions are needed

The problem for people from Ukraine is twofold. Because firstly, they have fled from the war to a new country where they have to start a new life. And secondly, they have to find their way around a market that is in crisis (we wrote that rents for housing soared twice as much during the first two weeks of the war in Ukraine as they did throughout the whole of last year here).

Many people simply cannot afford to rent a flat. Access to municipal resources in council flats and social housing is also limited (according to CSO data from the end of 2021, almost 130,000 households are waiting in a queue).

Przybylska emphasizes that the government should implement solutions in successive stages.

‘The housing crisis and the lack of affordable housing has been going on for a long time. The state should introduce phased solutions to this. Solutions that can produce a result quickly and solutions that will have an impact in the long term,’ says Przybylska.

What solutions is this about?

Social letting agencies and vacant properties

‘Firstly, social letting agencies should work in consultation with the municipality,’ says Przybylska.

This would make it easier for people from Ukraine to access the rental market. Municipalities could set up a social letting agency, which would be run, for instance, by an NGO. And then lease flats on the market and rent them to people who meet specific criteria.

‘If towns and municipalities had started setting up such agencies at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, they could be up and running now, helping those in need to rent accommodation,’ says Przybylska.

‘Secondly, the idea is to increase the affordable housing stock. We could use vacant properties for this. Polish municipalities have more than 70,000 properties which are standing empty and are not used. The buildings are in a poor technical condition because, for instance, they do not have enough money for renovation. Renovating them and connecting them to utilities is a quick solution that would increase access to housing.’

Vacant housing that is in private hands could also be used in the crisis.

‘The state could introduce incentives, such as tax breaks for people who own such flats and place them onto the rental market. Because high prices are a derivative of the fact that demand is greater than supply,’ says Przybylska. ‘The most long-term solution is, of course, the construction of a new stock and the search for solutions between the private and public sectors so that housing is not too expensive.’

Liberalizing the rental market

The authors of the report named ‘Hospitable Poland 2022+’ wrote that the pressure on the housing market will increase as refugees from Ukraine become independent. It was prepared by the WiseEuropa Foundation in cooperation with a team of researchers and analysts. They are experts on the economy, social issues, education and healthcare.

They were raising the alarm as early as in early June 2022, that there is a need for:

  • the identification and occupancy of vacant properties;
  • the liberalization of the tenancy law or the construction of modular housing estates (which could then be transported to Ukraine);
  • soliciting funds from the European Union for the construction of circular modular housing for people fleeing from the war in Ukraine;
  • passing the long-awaited act on funds investing in rental properties. This would mobilize more capital for housing investments;
  • a comprehensive reform of the rental regulations.

The start of the war was a great time to take long-term action. Meanwhile, seven months have passed since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and there are still no system-wide solutions. ‘All the time, it’s ad hoc aid activities in towns and municipalities and activities of NGOs.

And there is not one coherent system that would provide support to the needy throughout the country,’ says Przybylska.

There is still a large number of Ukrainians who have a place to live and food to eat only thanks to the kindness of the Poles who have taken them into their homes. They are increasingly paying for the aid out of their own pockets, because the period of payment of 40 zlotys a day was only extended in exceptional situations. We wrote about this here.

So far, the provisions of the amended special Act on aid to citizens of Ukraine have enabled the adaptation of local government buildings for residential purposes. This is a good solution, but the effects will come later. Meanwhile, housing is needed now. The reduced income of local governments means that they have a low level of resources and limited possibilities to make their own contribution to housing projects.

We asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration why it wants refugees to contribute to the cost of maintaining collective accommodation and whether this would depend on their income. We are still waiting for a response.

Udostępnij:

Julia Theus

Dziennikarka, pracowała w „Gazecie Wyborczej” i Wirtualnej Polsce. W OKO.press od 2021 roku, absolwentka Filologii Polskiej na Uniwersytecie im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, stypendystka nauk humanistycznych i społecznych na Sorbonie IV w Paryżu (Université Paris Sorbonne IV).

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