They are everywhere – in rich and prestigious neighborhoods, in the city center, in some of Jerusalem’s most historic neighborhoods and in the less well-groomed.They can be large buildings or small houses; they may have a past rich in stories or be simply closed, abandoned, forgotten ruins.In a city where a one-bedroom apartment may cost as much as a villa in one of the villages surrounding Jerusalem, they remain shuttered and neglected, as if they are still here just to raise anger in those who cannot even dream of inhabiting them.They are the abandoned properties of the city.No fewer than 415,000 square meters of such abandoned properties have been registered over the past few years, an initiative of the members of the Hitorerut movement, which today has four seats in the city council, presided over by Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz.In 2007-8, one of Hitorerut’s first actions in city politics was to raise the issue of the abandoned buildings across the city.In parallel, they pushed another issue high in their list of priorities – “ghost apartments” – luxury apartments and properties here, owned by rich Jews living abroad and inhabited less than three weeks a year. Since then, the ghost apartment issue has been resolved. The council has voted to double the arnona (municipal taxes) of foreign owners. The solution may not solve the problem of the lack of apartments in the city, but it at least adds to the city’s revenues.The abandoned properties issue is entirely different. According to the law, if a property becomes uninhabitable, its owner benefits from a significant reduction in the taxes imposed.“In many cases, they are even completely exempted from arnona, or it is reduced to a ridiculous minimum,” adds Berkowitz.“That is exactly what we are trying to put an end to.”The first step was to map the capital’s abandoned properties.The map, compiled by volunteers, has so far registered about 65 abandoned buildings and even rows of buildings, such as the one facing the central bus station on Jaffa Road. Some of them are well-known – like the former Presidents Hotel on Ahad Ha’am Street in the prestigious Talbiyeh neighborhood, a few blocks from the Prime Minister’s Residence. Others are less known, like some very old structures in Nahlaot and Nahalat Shiva.One of the largest such structures was until recently the “home” of several homeless people who squatted there, the beautiful building of the Alliance School, on the corner of Agrippas Street and Jaffa Road. Today, the structure has been renovated and houses dance and actors’ companies working and performing here.What is planned regarding these abandoned properties is to change the law to impose the full arnona on the owners – even a higher one in some cases. The proposal has been submitted to the Knesset, where it is handled and promoted by MK Roy Folkman, formerly head of urban planning at Safra Square and today a member of the Kulanu Party in the Knesset. According to Berkowitz, the bill is ready to be submitted after the Knesset break for a first vote, and then to the Interior Committee, to prepare it for second and third votes and to be implemented.When that is achieved, the chance that at least some of these abandoned properties will finally be renovated and reintroduced to the housing market will be improved.