Kirschenbaum petitions affordable housing

Ayalim Association, which establishes student and entrepreneur villages in the Negev, joined the MK in high court filing.

February 21, 2012 03:48
2 minute read.
Ben-david family's tent in Shachar Park.

ben-david family tent city shachar park 521. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)


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MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday over Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias’s (Shas) controversial affordable housing program. The Ayalim Association, which establishes student and entrepreneur villages in the Negev, joined Kirschenbaum in filing the petition.

Attias’s affordable housing program, which the Israel Land Authority’s (ILA) managing council approved last month, has drawn considerable criticism because it excludes earning power from its eligibility criteria.

In her petition, Kirschenbaum asks the court to overturn Attias’s decision to omit earning power in determining eligibility. She states this discriminates against the general public in favor of the ultra-Orthodox community, in a way she said on Monday is “arbitrary and outrageous.”

Under Attias’s program, longterm married couples with children would score high on the priority list for rent-controlled apartments, according to which the ILA must publish “price for occupancy” tenders.

The tenders would allocate rent-controlled units in the following way: 45 percent to families with children aged three years or more; 35% to families with children aged one or two; and 20% to individuals aged 35 and over, or to families without children.

Half of the tenders would prioritize specific sectors of the population according to a point system, with married couples being eligible for up to 70 points – dependent on how long they have been married – a slight drop from the 80 points that Attias originally proposed.

“I filed this High Court petition to get answers about why the Construction and Housing Minister ignores taxpayers who are struggling to cope with the cost of living, and why the minister prefers to give housing priority to longterm married people without taking into consideration earning capacity,” Kirschenbaum said on Monday.

In addition to Attias, the petition also names as respondents Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and the ILA, and accuses the state of deliberately omitting the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations regarding earning power and military service as criteria for affordable housing.

One of the committee’s recommendations was that “fully exploited earning power” must be a condition for receiving rent-controlled apartments – meaning that to be eligible, a couple must together achieve 125% of a work week or be actively looking for work.

The petitioners say the issue of affordable housing is “extremely weighty and touches the heart of Israeli society and its character,” and argue that Attias’s housing plan should represent the wider public rather than, as they argue, “giving unfair advantage to a minority population.”

In a statement peppered with housing-related puns, a Kadima spokesman accused Kirschenbaum of “showing no confidence in the government” by petitioning the High Court over Attias’s plan.

“Israel Beiteinu’s petition against Minister Attias is an unprecedented governmental move to break the coalition, whose obvious meaning is that there is no ‘landlord’ at the head of the government and that the housing solution’s ‘address’ isn’t the current government in which [Israel Beiteinu] sits,” the spokesman said.

Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.

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