The Legal Aid Department of the Justice Ministry filed a petition in the
Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday on behalf of six families who have been on
the waiting list for public housing for years.
The petition, submitted by
attorney Roi Hochmi, criticizes the amount of rental subsidy awarded to the six
It asks the court to order the Ministry of Housing and
Construction to award the six families rental subsidies in line with private
It also asks judges to order the Ministry to disclose the
criteria it uses to determine how public housing is allocated, including how its
priority waiting list is determined.
All of the six families included in
the petition are struggling to cope with high rents in the private sector as
they wait to be allocated public housing.
All are living in sub-standard
privately-rented accommodations, but cannot afford to move.
single parent families and all have several children.
Many have been on
the waiting list for public housing for several years – as long as 11 years in
the case of one family, a separated mother of four children aged 8 to
Currently renting privately, the woman is struggling to pay her
monthly rent of NIS 3,500.
Her husband does not pay child support, and
because of this she fell behind with her rental payments and last year was
served with an eviction notice.
After she became homeless, the woman and
her four children lived in a tent opposite the Housing Ministry until the mayor
intervened and helped the woman find an apartment via a haredi charity, where
she has lived for the past two years.
Initially, the woman received NIS
1,550 in housing assistance from the Ministry of Housing each month. However,
after she and her husband temporarily reconciled in August 2010, that assistance
fell to just NIS 600.
Her financial situation is so fragile that she does
not know whether she will be able to stay in the apartment for another week, the
The other five families named on the petition are in
“This is the direct result of the negligence of the
Ministry of Housing and Construction,” wrote Hochmi in the petition.
of the reasons the families have waited so long to be allocated public housing
is because of the depletion of public housing stock.
This is because
there are now far fewer apartments available for public housing, a direct
result, Hochmi said, of the government’s policy of selling public housing
apartments to longterm tenants at heavily discounted rates.
cases, these ‘veteran’ tenants receive discounts of up to 90 percent off the
market price when they elect to purchase their state-owned
Although the Ministry of Housing is supposed to use cash
raised by selling public housing apartments to replenish the public housing
stock by investing in new buildings, it has not done so, the petition
According to a 2008 report by the State Comptroller, in the first
quarter of that year the state sold 26,000 apartments at a total income of NIS 2
billion, but had not added any money to the public housing fund.
number of public housing apartments continues to shrink, rental prices in the
private sector have skyrocketed, particularly in Jerusalem.
hikes in private rental prices, the government has not increased the amount of
rental assistance it provides to the poorest families.
Families should be
awarded housing assistance in line with private rental costs, the petition
According to the petition, a year ago the Ministry of Housing and
Construction offered one of the six families the chance to receive an extra NIS
500 rental assistance a month on condition that he gave up his place on the
public housing waiting list.
Hochmi slammed that suggestion as “extremely
unreasonable,” and said it exploited the petitioner’s distress.
petition also criticizes the Housing Ministry’s “discriminatory” criteria for
allocating public housing, according to which candidates are apparently ranked
according to the number of family members and the time they have been waiting
In practice, this means that a needy family could wait for
housing for a decade but be pushed out of the top slot by another family with a
larger number of children.
In his request to the court, Hochmi stressed
the urgency of the petition. All of the six petitioners are in severe distress
and at least one is facing being made homeless if a solution is not
“What is the value of political rights and freedom of expression
if you don’t even have a roof over your head?” Hochmi said in his petition to
the Jerusalem District Court.
“According to the Basic Law of Human
Dignity and Liberty, the right to housing is one of the most basic rights. It’s
one of the fundamental rights of existence.”