PRESS RELEASE | MARCH 30 2016
The Amendments to the Public Housing Transparency Bill passed, the Forum for Public Housing celebrates an end of abuse and harassment of public housing tenants
The bill regarding public housing tenants, which the Forum has advocated and worked on for many years, passed today in the Knesset after a second and third vote. Our gratitude goes out to MK’s Dov Hanin and Orly Levi-Abekasis who, along with the whole housing caucus, played a major role in this achievement! We also congratulate the Minister of Housing for supporting this bill which secures the rights of tenants and eligible members of public to receive clear and up-to-date information regarding their status and any changes to it, their rights, and debts, as well as all decisions and processes related to their case. The era of “Amidar said so” is over.
Main points of the new law:
*Public housing companies will be obligated to send tenants 6 biannual reports composed in clear language which will include details on charges and payments, any debts, and a calculation of rent. Those awaiting an apartment will receive a report detailing the decisions made regarding their case and the rights they have in regard to appealing their case. A company that does not report to the tenant will not be allowed to charge interest or any other addition to a debt due to payment delay of payment.
*In instances where there is change in the monthly rent, the public housing company is required to send a notice two months in advance. The message will include information about the conclusion of the previous payment period, and the forms tenants need to send in order to renew their discounts.
*With any charge for repairs the public housing company must detail how they came to the charge. This must be based on standard transparent pricing and a calculation of the tenant’s co-pay.
*Every tenant must be permitted to review their personal file including all submitted documents and decisions previously made in regard to their case.
*Writing must be clear and in several languages in every chapter regarding a tenant’s rights.
*Any document received by a housing company must be acknowledged in writing.
*Public housing companies must hand tenants a copy of every decision along with relevant documents regarding their case within fourteen days of the decision. Additionally, any requests by eligible citizens to receive public housing must be replied to within thirty days.
The application of this law will make it difficult for housing companies to inflate tenants’ bills and to allow for repairs based on bribes and connections; the law will help prevent situations of dormant debt leading to eviction and the blocking of basic rights due to loss of documents, barred access to files, or lack of the provision of updated information.
We at The Forum are hopeful that the law will reduce the horrific harassment of female tenants due to their complete reliance on housing companies, a phenomenon that received media coverage recently.
The Forum is hopeful that the bill’s new mandate for transparency regarding debt will reduce the number of evictions from apartments contested between the housing company and the tenants, while also stopping the creation of debts as large as tens and hundreds of thousands of shekels for families supported by the welfare system.
As a whole, the application of the law will alter the current balance of power wherein the tenants of public housing live in the shadows and experience institutional neglect, disrespect and harassment. The law will allow them to stand tall with dignity while empowering them to tackle their currently challenging reality in hopes that they will soon be able to leave it — as originally intended by the creation of public housing. The Forum for Public Housing hopes the Transparency Law will represent a larger wave of checks and balances for public housing companies as public companies, especially in regards to the daily corruption and scandals.
We hope that the passing of this law will act as the first sign of a true change in the country regarding public housing in general and the dignity and status of tenants in particular. Poverty is first and foremost a systemic failure in the treatment of Israeli citizens and their rights, and passing this law reminds us of the importance of returning dignity to humans and allowing for a real exit from the cycle of poverty. We must also remember that tens of thousands of individuals eligible for public housing are still waiting for apartments, while hundreds of thousands of others are denied access due to an unreasonable stiffening of eligibility criteria.
Riki Benlulu- a public housing resident:
“Every day citizens don’t understand how easy it was until now to pin on poor tenants fictitious debts while neglecting public housing buildings to the point that they are unsuitable for human residence; all of this is aided by the secrecy that the legislature allowed the housing companies. We will follow the implementation of the law, and will continue within the Forum for Public Housing to put forth more and more additions to the law that in order to aid those waiting for apartments as well as current tenants. In that sense, the bill is just a first step on route to the bigger goal.”
Rabbi Kobi Weiss, from RHR and the Forum for Public Housing:
“It is fulfilling to see how years of work in Beit Shean, analysis of tenants’ complaints, empowerment of tenants to testify in Knesset committees and in the Finance Committee in particular, along with cooperation between The Forum and the Knesset’s Housing Caucus added up to a rendition of the transparency law to a full form.
The law began after a testimony by Oleg, one of our main activists in Beit Shean and it is very exciting to see that one individual can take his personal issue and assist many thousands of people throughout the country!!!
This is the type of day that restores your faith and makes you proud of Israeli democracy. You can return to the neighbourhood and tell the people that ‘the struggle is hard but in the end it bears fruit, and you can make a change!’ If you ask me, this is the essence of being a Rabbi, and today we made the state a little bit more Jewish.”
Attorney Becky Keshet Cohen:
“Knowledge is power. Today an important step was taken to include all who are entitled to knowledge and the power that knowledge holds. We hope this is a sign of public servants taking responsibility to empower the population they serve and to act to fulfill their needs.”
Special thanks to Ofek Ravid for translation