Drawing on the results of a qualitative study conducted in twelve Czech cities, the authors discuss how ‘problematic localities’ are represented in the narratives of local politicians and public officials. They analyse the ways in which these localities are categorised and how these categorisations are used to legitimise the specific treatment of these places and their inhabitants. City governance and administration are considered to be a part of a modern tradition of urban planning and city management, which is analysed in the first part of the study. The second, empirical part shows how ‘common sense’, ethnicised attributes are activated and applied to the localities and their inhabitants in the narratives of politicians and public officials. These attributes are associated with a notion of impurity, which leads to the need for surveillance, discipline, or purifi cation. From their analysis of these narrative practices the authors suggest that the borders of entitlement and the borders of responsibility are constructed. The borders of entitlement define who deserves the care provided by a state or a city; the borders of responsibility then delimit the symbolic space in which the state or city is perceived by its representatives to be responsible for the situation of its inhabitants and citizens. A crucial role is played in the process of border formation by (1) the application of ethnicised categories and inconsistent definitions of the objects of municipal and state care and by (2) the forms of ownership that apply to the housing stock in which these objects, that is, people, live.