SOCIAL housing in Oxford is to form the building blocks of communities in the Czech Republic.

Petr Smrcek, vice minister for spatial development and housing policies in the Czech Ministry of Regional Development, visited the city on Thursday to examine how social housing works in practice for tenants.

He will take his research back to the Czech Republic, where it will influence how the country responds to the increasing privatisation of its housing stock.

The minister said: “If you don’t have social housing in an area then you end up with deprivation because people can’t afford anywhere to live. As a result investment in the area stops and a vicious circle develops.

“In Oxford I feel you deal with this well and these are the sort of lessons we want to learn and take back to the Czech Republic.

“I’m particularly interested in your very active housing associations, which devise some very good local policies.”

Mr Smrcek visited homeless charity Crisis Skylight in the Old Fire Station, George Street and then The Oval in Rose Hill to see some of the city’s social housing.

The minister said Oxford’s similarities with Czech cities made it a perfect place to do his research.

He said: “Oxford is a town of a similar size to many in the Czech Republic so we can draw parallels easily. It also is a city of contrasts, with areas like Rose Hill which have a good deal of social housing sitting beside areas where there are houses worth millions of pounds.

“The situation with social housing in the Czech Republic at the moment is similar to the situation in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s when Margaret Thatcher allowed much of the stock to be sold off. We want to learn from your mistakes and also see what you have done well.”

Mr Smrcek was joined by city councillor Ed Turner and Ivan Prikryl from the Czech Association for Housing Development.

Mr Turner said he was pleased Mr Smrceck had chosen Oxford for his research He said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved in Oxford with social housing schemes, especially in Rose Hill. We think we have a great success story to tell.”

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