At a hearing of the Knesset economic committee, Housing Ministry Director General Shlomo Ben Eliahu claimed that public housing “doesn’t work.” However, in conversations after the formal discussion, Director General Ben Eliahu told organizations from the Public Housing Forum that the problem of public housing is a budget deficiency. He claimed that more than half of the public housing tenants today do not meet the present strict criteria. The statements were made at a hearing of the Knesset economic committee which mostly consisted of a report by housing Minister Uri Ariel about his ministry’s activities. The organizations managed to get the minister to focus on public housing. A central part of the discussion was about the ministry’s wish to transform a large part of public housing to a rent assistance model and thereby cancel most of the public housing.
At the hearing on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, contradictions were seen between the housing ministry’s official messages about public housing and statements that were made informally. At the hearing, the Director General Ben Eliahu said that public housing was a faulty model that does not work.
However, in informal conversations with organization representatives after the hearing, the director said that the problem with public housing stemmed from a budgetary deficiency and the fact that money that had been earmarked for public housing had been redirected over the years to other purposes. MK Avishai Braverman (labor), who chaired the hearing, was more specific and mentioned that some of the money was divertd among other things to construction in the occupied territories.
The director general added that today more than half of the public housing tenants did not meet the (strict) current criteria to receive public housing. This figure shows that the present criteria do not meet the needs of most of the people in Israel who need public housing in order to have a roof over their heads.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president of Rabbis for Human Rights, member of the Public Housing Forum: “Jewish tradition teaches us integrity and avoiding fraud, and the representatives of the finance and housing ministries should tell the public directly that the issue at hand is a moral not a technical one: should the adequate amount of money be invested in order to guarantee what the state once promised: housing for every resident? The housing ministry must not hide behind claims that public housing doesn’t work.”