The Knesset Legislative Committee unexpectedly voted down an update to the public housing law on Monday, after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Immigration Minister Sofa Landver passed amendments to the bill.
Under the law, people who have have resided in public housing for extended periods have the option of buying the apartment. The amended version would have required that money from such sales be used to invest in more public housing in order to keep the public housing supply intact.
Once Livni (Hatnua) and Landver (Likud-Beytenu) – an unusual team, given their parties’ disagreements on most matters – passed the amendment, the new version of the law was voted down.
“You sell to the weak, you buy for the weak – that’s the basis of the housing law,” Livni wrote on her Facebook wall following the vote. “The finance minister and construction and housing minister today proposed a new formula: selling and liquidating the stock of public housing in Israel.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who vowed to bring the law back to the cabinet, had proposed using the cash to subsidize rent instead, arguing that financing more public housing would lead to the creation of slums.
“It’s a shame that narrow political interests are hurting the weakest classes in Israeli society,” Lapid said. “Preventing the purchase of apartments by public housing residents means only one thing – they will never have a house, and that we will never accept.”
Ariel accused Livni of not believing in public housing, and argued that the fund he and Lapid envisioned would go toward helping only the weakest members of society.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich praised Livni and Landver, and urged the government to adopt their amendment.
“The entire goal of transitioning from a public housing model at the responsibility of the state to a model of rental assistance for those who need it is to gradually reduce that assistance and turn it into another budgetary source for covering the deficit,” she said.