Ministers approve bill prioritizing rent aid over public housing

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yisrael Beytenu ministers continue to oppose the legislation.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Funds from selling public housing will be used to aid the needy, in rent payment and to buy more property for affordable housing, according to an amendment to the Public Housing Law approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday.
The same panel voted down the bill in August and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and ministers from Yisrael Beytenu continued to oppose the legislation this week. The bill will have to pass three votes in the Knesset before being implemented.
Under the current law, people who resided in public housing for extended periods have the option of buying the apartment.
The amendment proposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel requires that money from such sales be used to invest in more public housing and its maintenance, to keep the public housing supply intact and to subsidize rent for those eligible to receive aid.
Much of the funding is expected to go to the second option, aid in rent, which Lapid and Ariel prefer.
“Today, we started off on a path that will give solutions to public housing and realistic aid in paying rent for those who are eligible,” Ariel stated. “After many years, tenants will finally be able to buy property that they will own and be fully responsible for, and improve their social and economic standing.”
According to Ariel, selling public housing apartments will give its residents independence.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said the change to the Public Housing Law is “harmful and obtuse.”
“This amendment dries out and destroys the Public Housing Law,” Yacimovich stated.
“Moving from public housing under the government’s responsibility to aid in rent for the needy means that help is being decreased and [selling public housing] is another way to cover the deficit on the backs of the weakest members of society.”
Yacimovich added that she will fight to make sure this “evil bill” does not pass.
The New Israel Fund Initiative for Social Change, or Shatil, opposed the amendment and demanded that all funds from selling public housing be put into purchasing or building new public housing and not invested anywhere else. In addition, the organization said the government should funnel additional funds toward that end.
According to Shatil, “unlike the finance minister’s claim, that helping with rent will give public housing residents the freedom to choose where to live, the amendment proposed by the ministers will only increase the number of people who need public housing and concentrate them in poor neighborhoods. Today there are 2,500 native families and 27,500 new immigrants waiting for public housing. In the current market, public housing and its rehabilitation is the only solution for the needs of families that are unable to find a roof to sleep under without government intervention.”
Niv Elis contributed to this report.