Elderly Israelis wait for their turn to vote .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The head of the Knesset’s Aliya and Absorption Committee on Monday requested an increase in the state budget for housing assistance for elderly olim.
The subject was raised in light of a dispute over the allowance given to elderly olim who joined a housing program launched in 2002 for long-term apartment rentals, thus leaving the waiting line for public housing. When an increase of 100 NIS was approved for those in the waiting line at the beginning of 2016, the former group was excluded from the decision.
However, they had already received an additional 400 NIS for participating in the special track for long-term apartment rentals.
Committee chairman Avraham Neguise said during a meeting on the subject that long waiting times for public housing is a known issue, and one that poses a problem particularly for many elderly olim. “Assistance for those who are renting property on a long-term basis is supposed to provide a housing solution, but those who opt for this are taken out of the waiting line for public housing, and get five years of assistance in rent.
Those elderly people who left the waiting line for public housing lost the benefits granted to those who are eligible for public housing. Don’t say it’s a problem of money, it’s a problem of readiness,” he said.
MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), who initiated the discussion, said the extra 100 NIS was a “welcome increase, but one which wasn’t intended for those on the special track, only for those in line for public housing. She said there was a need to increase funds and to pool resources, and to ensure elderly olim who want long-term apartment rentals are included in that.”
General Director of the Immigration and Absorption, Haviv Katzav, responded that those in the special program can always return to their place in line for public housing and would then receive the extra benefit.
2,200 families are currently in the special track, and they were given some 400 NIS a month per month to encourage them to leave the line and be part of what was offered as a solution to the long waiting times. There is no additional budget for the program, thus nobody new can join it. “This is not discrimination, but in fact discrimination to their benefit. If we had a budget we would give to everyone,” said Katzav.
MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) noted that Immigration Minister Sofa Landver already appealed to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on the matter on Sunday, who responded that he could not reopen the budget. MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), also called for an increase in the base assistance for all groups, as did MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), former chairman of the Absorption Ministry, who said the emphasis should be on increasing the budget allocated to the issue.