With the marking of the 50th anniversary of the United States’ “War on Poverty” this month, Rabbi Idit Lev considers the implications of bad policy on society’s most vulnerable members– its children.
Tag archive for "Public Housing"
RHR’s Rabbi Idit Lev of our Rights Center in Holon has been closely following the Elaluf Committee, appointed by the welfare minister to “combat poverty.” In late November when the committee first began to meet, Rabbi Lev wrote she was feeling doubtful. Now, by the third meeting, the committee is proving that her doubts were indeed justified.
By: Rabbi Idit Lev
From the outset we have been asking questions about the Elaluf Committee, which convened tomorrow for the third time. Our determined struggle to have the voice of Israel’s poor heard, as part of the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty’s work (link in Hebrew), led to a thorough analysis of the committee in an investigation by Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading dailies. What follows is the chronology of the struggle.
We are closely following the committee as a part of our commitment to fighting poverty, and unfortunately, after an initial examination, believe that its chances of true success are minimal. As Rabbi Idit Lev wrote in her post: Poverty: Who Really Cares About It? The Elaluf Committee’s Chance of Success:
“And now it’s time to make good on their promises – today the committee will convene for its first discussion, which is meant to be open to the public. In no place on the Welfare Ministry’s website has it been announced that the committee is meeting, where it is meeting or when. It seems that the minister’s promises are baseless. People who live in poverty and others who are not members of the committee will find it very difficult to even find its discussions.
In the past ten years I’ve learned that people who live in poverty need to be part of every discussion and attempt to reduce the number of poor in Israel, which is the same argument made by the Fourth World Movement. People who live in poverty do not have their voice represented on this committee, and thus they are excluded from the debate surrounding their fate.”
As part of the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty’s activity we presented a study with troubling findings about the debt level among people who live in poverty in a single neighborhood in Be’er Sheva [article available in Hebrew only]. And we marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with an article entitled, “What Will Take Us Out of Poverty?” [Hebrew only]. We have broadcast all the hearings on our twitter feed (RHRIS) and we even published testimonies of women who live in poverty in Israel.
Our struggle to have the voice of Israel’s poor heard reached the front page headlines of Haaretz Hebrew edition. Rabbi Idit Levi wrote about the council:
“The Prime Minister’s office pushed the Committee for Combating Poverty to work with McKinsey, which profits from the changes and processes of privatization in the public sector, instead of the Brookdale Institute, a public institution partially owned by the government. This step was made behind the scenes and raises questions about the directions in which they are trying to push the committee’s decisions.” Read Or Kasthi’s full article in Hebrew at the Haaretz website.
Following our struggle in the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty, an editorial was published in Haaretz calling for the involvement of people living in poverty in the hearings about their future and the plans to assist them. We hope we have sent this message loud and clear to the Welfare Minister.
On Friday yet another article by Or Kashti about the committee [article in Hebrew]was published in the Haaretz Hebrew edition. Kashti revealed that three professors had withdrawn from the committee, and on Sunday Or Kasthi announced on his blog [article in Hebrew] the withdrawal of another member, deputy-chairman of the Housing Committee Arieh Bar. Bar had harsh criticism for the Israeli government regarding it’s conduct during a time in which the committee has yet to formulate a program:
“It is not easy to convince people that without a roof over your head your chance of being poor is high,” he said. “The housing problem did not exist from the 60s until the 80s. We’ve arrived at this situation because the state dismantled the assets that it once had in the field of implementation… the state needs to make sure that every citizen of Israel has a roof over their head. It is a basic thing, and it needs to be in legislation.”
Yesterday on the Seder Yom (Daily Agenda) program, Keren Neubach interviewed Or Kashti on the question of the Elaluf Committee’s work (in Hebrew from minute 13:15 until 22:00). Keren Neubach also asked him to expand on Arieh Bar’s withdrawal and comments. Kashti noted that Bar sees the committee as toothless, due to the government’s simultaneous attempt to bury the state’s responsibility for public housing [English]. The interview also raised questions concerning universal benefits, privatization, and the outsourcing of the committee’s public relations to an external public relations firm.
We call on all of our readers and supporters to join the public hearings at the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School in Holon. In joining us, you can help give voice to those who live in poverty so that they might have a say in the decisions influencing their futures.
NOTE: This post by Nitzan Tenami, originally published in the Hebrew in “HaOkets,” was written for a January 6th Knesset discussion. However, the discussion did not occur, and the question of which committee will take on the amendment remains unknown still.
By: Nitzan Tenami
January 6th the widely-praised amendment to the public housing law will be brought to the Knesset committee. There it will be determined whether it will be discussed by the members of the Labor and Welfare Committee – the natural choice – or by the Finance Committee, which is likely to eliminate it for good.
Monday, January 6th, the Knesset committee is expected to decide which committee will discuss the amendment to Israel’s public housing law. The goal of the original law was to allow long-time tenants, most of whom are immigrants from Arab countries, to buy their apartments at a reduced price, so they, not only residents of kibbutzim and moshavim, can leave property to their children and help the next generation to break the cycle of poverty. The law also stipulates that the money that would be made from the sale of the apartments, along with additional funds to be invested by the government, will be used to revitalize public housing apartments and to ensure that the housing budget will remain at the level promised by the current law. This is part of the worldview that every country (depending on how much the country defines itself as a welfare state) must ensure that citizens who cannot purchase an apartment at market prices still have shelter and a place to live.
Like many laws oriented towards social justice, this law has been frozen in the Arrangements Law year after year since 2001 and thus not implemented in practice. The apartments, however, were sold, and of the proceeds – some 2.75 billion shekels – only 680 million went to the housing ministry, and not one shekel has been put towards the construction of new public housing. We thus find ourselves today with only 60,000 public housing apartments, which are meant to answer the plight of the 442,000 poor families in Israel. The sale of the public housing, which was planned as a sort of socially just revolution, actually sat well with the position of the Finance Ministry and the government of Israel, who sought to eliminate public housing and replace it with rental assistance. Rental assistance was preferable because it is just another typical government stipend, one that is (like all stipends) subject to constant erosion. It does not create a sense of security about one’s right to shelter, and helps push citizens in need of public housing to the geographic and social periphery. In this spirit, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Housing Minister Uri Ariel recently decided to “unfreeze” the public housing law and allow the sale of the remaining apartments, while changing the clause stipulating that proceeds will be used to buy new apartments and that the housing budget will remain the same.
The Knesset committee is now meant to decide which committee will hold hearings on the law, as the government pushes to pass the law to the Finance Committee while a long line of Knesset members from every party demands that the law be brought to the Labor and Welfare Committee. On the surface, there is no dilemma: the right to housing is a basic pillar in the social security system, which is responsibility of the Labor and Welfare Committee. The Finance Committee, on the other hand, is responsible for the national budget, taxes on foreign currency, and banking. If this is not enough, all one needs to do is read the official opinion of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, which states that “the transition of the Housing Ministry, and in practice the entire government, to the rental assistance policy is a serious blow to all those who are eligible and to those on the periphery.” Or one could simply look at the letter from the Israel Association of Social Workers to understand the far-reaching social and economic implications of this issue. The letter states: “In light of the fact that the government’s economic plan does not intend to solve the public housing issue in the next several years, we are forced to consider instructing the various agencies responsible for social services in this country that in the absence of any real solutions, that they might no longer be able to productively work with and care for those in need of public housing.”
Yes, but… the Finance Committee, where members of the coalition form a decisive majority, is a sort of executive arm of the current government. This is a committee that transfers funds casually from budget item to budget item, according to the Finance Ministry requests. This is a committee that will not view the public housing law as a tool to correct social injustice and as a way to enable government intervention in the property market, but rather as a way to take more money from public housing tenants and to invest it in projects that bring the government prestige and good PR. If the public housing law goes to the Finance Committee and not to its appropriate place in the Labor and Welfare Committee, the Knesset will be able to record in its minutes that it has taken another step towards the elimination of public housing.
Nitzan Tenami, of Rabbis for Human Rights, is a member of the Public Housing Forum. This article was originally published in “HaOkets.”
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.”
November 28 2013 | PRESS RELEASE
Today, Wednesday, 27 November 2013, during a Knesset Finance Committee hearing, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel hinted at the fate of the Bedouin villages (when asked about housing solutions in the Arab sector). Rabbi Arik Ascherman, President of Rabbis for Human Rights, reports from the hearing:
“I came to the Finance Committee with the Forum for Public Housing in order to ask the Housing and Construction Minister questions about the plans to eliminate public housing in favor of rent assistance.
I did not expect to hear in that context Minister Ariel in fact announce the intention to demolish 20-25 Bedouin villages. When discussing the fate of the Bedouin villages, he spoke of plans to build an Arab community near Nahariya and 10-15 Bedouin villages in the Negev. In other words, the remainder of the 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages are designated for demolition.”
Rabbis for Human Rights’ response:
We see a sad symbolic irony that in a discussion about eliminating public housing, demolition of Bedouin villages was also hinted at. Those whose relationship to the foreigner is alienated, are also alienated from the orphan and the widow, as well as the rest of society’s weak sectors. They are mentioned together in the Torah for a reason:
Tags: Uri Ariel, Uri Arieli, widow, foreigner, public housing, Bedouin villages, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, demolition of Bedouin villages, Knesset Finance Committee, elimination of public housing, orphan, Forum for Public Housing, Prawer, Housing and Construction Minister
November 26 2013 | PRESS RELEASE
The 19th Knesset Again Shows Its Insensitivity to the Housing Crisis Facing the 21 Percent of Israeli Citizens Who Are Poor
The Knesset will today pass at the First Reading the amendment to the Public Housing Law. The amendment will allow the authorities to sell public housing apartments without any parallel requirement to replenish the stock. The Knesset will also pass the National Housing Committee Law without including solutions for public housing.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel have decided to eliminate the last remnants of Israel’s housing system. Just 60,000 apartments remain in the system, which is supposed to meet the needs of some 442,000 poor families.
While in other Western countries public housing accounts for 20-30 percent of the market, thereby promoting stability in the housing sector, the Israeli government insists on eroding still further the two percent share of public housing. This will cause grave damage to those who require public housing and to the population as a whole. The transition to a system based on rent support will lead to an across-the-board hike in apartment prices. The ultimate beneficiaries of the government subsidy will be the landlords.
Ariel and Lapid have made naïve or cynical claims that the transition to a rent support system will “enable tenants to integrate economically and socially in the private housing market.” Nitzan Tanami of the Public Housing Forum noted that this claim ignores the fact that the rent support, which will be liable to constant erosion, will not provide housing security and will lead to the displacement of needy citizens to the geographical and social periphery. The Knesset is also passing the National Housing Committee Law today without including even a single public housing apartment – conclusive proof that the government is determined to create ghettos of poverty rather than integrative social housing.
According to Dov Khenin, co-chairperson of the Social Housing Lobby: “My impression is that the government ministers have never seen citizens who require public housing in real life. Otherwise they would not seriously be offering them a few shekels to get by in the soaring rental market.”
“If you treat us like dogs, we will live in a doghouse across from the Finance Minister,” says Rachel Levi-Davida, who, a year after being evicted from her Amidar public housing apartment, has been sleeping at friends’ and family’s homes, and even a salary is not enough for her to rent a modest apartment in Yavne. Continue Reading
“If you treat us like dogs, we will live in a doghouse across from the Finance Minister,” says Rachel Levi-Davida, who, a year after being evicted from her Amidar public housing apartment, is sleeping at friends’ and family’s homes, and even a salary is not enough for her to rent a modest apartment in Yavne.
Starting on Saturday (17.8) evening, Rachel Levi-Davida is going to live in a doghouse across from Finance Minister Lapid’s home in the upscale Ramat Aviv Gimel neighborhood. The “protest tent” – the doghouse facing the Finance Minister’s home – will be inaugurated at 10pm.
Finance Minister Lapid is the person who can change the system, but chooses to perpetuate a market in which many workers cannot even manage to rent an apartment or purchase basic necessities, explains Rabbis for Human Rights regarding the actions of Rachel, whom they have been working with for several years. There are many more workers like Rachel whose wages do not cover basic necessities no matter how you do the math. For more information on this issue.
Watch: Schnauzers protest at Minister Lapid’s home [in Hebrew]
Pictured: Rabbi Kobi Weiss, Shikma Yaakov. Photo: Shani Cohen (blurring intentional to preserve student privacy)
This week we again enjoyed the hospitality of the twelfth grade in Bet Shean’s Jezreel Valley West – Yif’at school, as part of the social studies curriculum. The students received a full explanation of our activities. We showed them the true reality behind the laws. We explained how work from beneath, with the community, leads to a realization of the actual needs of citizens, and we look for ways to meet those needs.
By: Rabbi Kobi Weiss Continue Reading
Rachel Levi-Davida, a homeless woman from Yavne, who was evicted from the Amidar flat where she had grown up, intends – with the help of activists - to build a wooden house instead of a Succa during Succot, and to make it her permanent home. 8 months after her eviction, she has no other way out.
Rachel Levi-Davida calls on other homeless men and women to follow her example and set up such social “outposts.” She hopes to slowly create a trend whereby vulnerable citizens take control of their fate and build themselves housing without government help: building a home in place of the one seized by the state. Continue Reading
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