Social and Economic Justice

Public Housing: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

07 August 2014 By New Israel Fund

Over the course of an intense week in July, public housing advocates held a major event and celebrated three victories in the Knesset, even as they faced an unanticipated setback.

Three bills initiated by the SHATIL-coordinated Public Housing Forum passed the Knesset's preliminary reading. The bills: mandate better rent support; require freedom of information for residents of public housing; and provide comparable apartments to residents from a Tel Aviv neighborhood whose public housing units were sold to a developer.

"We brought 150 people to the Knesset who demanded what they deserved—the basic right to have a roof over their heads," said SHATIL policy expert Danny Gigi. "We succeeded in passing laws that will make people's wait for public housing easier. Unfortunately, the government passed a law to build 150,000 new housing units without including a single unit of public housing among them. We are disappointed that despite significant efforts that were looking extremely hopeful, public housing was not included in this bill. We will continue our fight to change this policy."

When people are forced to pay high prices for housing, they slip further into poverty. Direct rental assistance drives market rents up, encouraging people with available funds to purchase apartments as an investment and increasing rental costs even more instead of stabilizing the market. There are about 2,500 families registered on Israel's public housing waiting list and nearly 30,000 more whom the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption says are eligible. No new units have been constructed since the 1970s, and the wait for a home can be more than a decade long.