Justice in Israel, Press Releases

The Forum for Public Housing presents Public Housing Day at the Knesset

0 Comments 11 July 2016

PRESS RELEASE | JULY 11 2016

The Forum for Public Housing presents Public Housing Day at the Knesset: Marking the Crisis of the Million

Invitation to cover: Public Housing Day in the Knesset on July 12 2016 will be led by MKs Orli Levy Abekasis, Dov Hanin, Stav Shafir, Ilan Gilon, Itzik Shmuli, Eli Cohen and Omer Bar Lev 

Public Housing Day at the Knesset

Public Housing Day at the Knesset

In one short sentence, the housing minister revealed what we all already know from our daily journey in the struggle for public housing: The problem cannot be reduced to the 2,700 individual Israelis who qualify for public housing and are waiting for it through housing department, nor to the 27,000 new immigrant families that are waiting in the “klita” ministry (new immigrants and native Israelis are subject to two separate processes in order to receive public housing) — rather there are a million people in Israel without any chance of a stable roof over their heads unless they receive external help. These are all people who will live in multi-generational poverty, people who will raise another generation and another after that who will be in poverty and will continue to be dependent upon welfare services. Putting aside the moral issue, such is also a social and economic failure.

Most of the people in need of housing receive rental assistance. However, the State Comptroller report has determined that the state does not have a clue how effective rental assistance is for the 30,000 families currently waiting for public housing, and for the 138,000 families for whom this assistance is a permanent solution for living adequate lives [since they are not eligible for public housing]. There is no research backing what any Israeli can plainly see: the absence of a stable home for a million Israelis increases multi-generational poverty in the country while deepening the pockets of the building owners who inflate the cost of rent beyond any reasonable expectation for the poor.

Public Housing Day at the Knesset will be dedicated to demanding a comprehensive reform to increase public housing stock, adjusting unfair criteria, and creating genuine oversight to the housing companies. First and foremost this must be enforced in regards to Amidar, the biggest housing company,   whose involvement in over 10 corruption cases over the last 2 years has been exposed.

Below are the discussions in the committees:

Economics Committee – This committee will discuss the topic of housing stock. Despite the recommendation of the Alalof committee to double the housing stock and maintain a minimum red line of 110,000 public housing apartments, the trend is in the opposite direction. As of Feb 2016, 353 apartments have been purchased for public housing and 3000 apartments have been sold and removed from the stock.

Committee for the Status of Women – This committee will discuss barriers in housing for women as well as sexual harassment by Amidar workers against female tenants. Single mothers in search of adequate housing are extremely vulnerable to those who would seek to take advantage of their fragile situations.  Indeed,  we have witnessed outrageous behaviour coming from those who have been charged with protecting the rights of women in public housing.

The Comptroller Committee – This committee will discuss the comptroller’s report which recently determined the government is operating unstrategically in the area of public housing wherein the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. The comptroller was promised by the current housing minister that the ministry is adopting the report of the comptroller and working to fix the inadequacies. However, in truth, the ministry is just putting out fires and neglecting to find a real solution to the crisis. Currently, there is no intergration between the handling of public housing and the larger issues of housing while the qualifying criteria for public housing remains as cruel as always, encouraging welfare dependancy rather than providing tenants incentives to re-enter the work force.

Special Committee on the access to government information – This committee will deal with the difficulties regarding the distribution of information from government agencies concerning public housing stock, processes for determining the waitlist, and the lack of information in Amharic and Russian for new immigrants waiting for public housing. The committee will demand a quarterly report be presented to the Knesset and will allow lawmakers to oversee the Ministry of Absorption (“Klita”) and Housing in the area of public housing.

The Committee for Urban Renewal – The Committee for Urban Renewal will examine the impact of urban renewal on public housing with the first and foremost goal to protect the tenants from the threat of being forced out of their homes. The committee will also seek to increase the public housing apartment stock.

The Forum for Public Housing along with the Public Housing Day are calling on the State to realize that we are experiencing a crisis where one million people are without housing; to incorporate a quota of 7% public housing in every new construction plan in Israel; and earmark 15% of “rental assitance” programs to public housing (as of today, only to the top 30% of net worth earners). In addition, the urban renewal plan must not only legally protect  current residents from an increase in accompanying expenses but also must create new public housing stock.

The criteria for qualification must also change so that each family without housing under the poverty line will qualify for public housing. It is only appropriate that any new public housing units be placed in economically mixed areas in order to allow marginalized communities in Irsael an opportunity to break the cycle of multi-generational poverty with the help of adequate educational, health and welfare institutions. If we add to this transparency in the actions of the housing companies along with adequate public management of state assets, public housing will be part of the solution to the housing crisis shaking the whole of Israeli society.

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