Israeli mayor prevents Arabs from buying their Lod homes

The city of Lod claims other motives.

Lod city center (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Lod city center
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(TNS) - Lod Mayor Yair Revivo is demanding a halt in the sale of properties by the development authority in the town, sources inform Globes.
At an internal meeting in March at the Israel Land Authority (ILA), sources present at the meeting, including ILA transaction department manager Ariel Mazuz and ILA central business district legal advisor Adv. Dror Dolev, said that Revivo had sought to freeze the sale of 500 Amidar-owned properties in the town.
56 of the housing units owned by the development authority are unoccupied, while the rest have tenants, most of whom are key money tenants seeking to buy their rights, and whom the mayor is preventing from doing this. Sources in the town said that most of the properties are occupied by Arabs, so the mayor is in effect preventing Arabs from buying the properties.
The Lod municipality said that the reason for the request to suspend the sale of the properties is that the municipality is planning to develop the areas in which the properties are located for various purposes, including tourism, and that the municipality was planning to take possession of the properties.
Sources inform Globes, however, that the Lod mayor was offered the opportunity to buy the properties two years ago with an exemption from a tender and with delayed payments but did nothing in the matter. The legal parties at the ILA present at the meeting in March warned that Revivo's request was irregular, because the development authority's procedure included no legal way of freezing the situation for reasons of planning expectations.
In contrast to public housing properties sold to eligible parties, the development authority's properties are sold to tenants with key money protection or in public auctions published by ILA. Public housing units are housing units that the state built or acquired over the years for the sake of economically disadvantaged people unable to afford rent on the free market. There are 55,000 such housing units in Israel.
The development authority, on the other hand, operates according to Absentees' Property Law - 1955, with subsequent amendments. This law was based on the responsibility taken by the state for housing units abandoned by the fleeing Arab population when the state was declared in 1948 and shortly afterwards. The development authority currently has 6,000 properties located mainly in towns with mixed Arab-Jewish populations. Nearly 10% of these properties are in Lod. The Amidar government housing company manages these properties, but there is no connection between them and public housing.
"In practice, when an auction is published in mixed neighborhoods, the winners are Arabs making higher bids than that the Jews, because their housing options are limited," a source in Lod said. "The mayor's decision is therefore first of all preventing Arabs from owning properties in Lod."
Yedid: The Association for Community Empowerment executive director Ran Melamed says, "We think that the housing units should be sold to people who have lived in them on key money for many years and who have key money rights, or they should be put into the public housing database and housing should be allocated to them."
ILA said, "ILA asked the Lod municipality for a list of properties, the handling of which the municipality wanted to freeze in order to develop the town. The parties agreed that the municipality would deliver a list of properties within an allotted time. At this stage, ILA is not marketing available properties. When the Lod municipality delivers the list, the subject will be evaluated as a whole by the authorized parties in ILA."
The Lod municipality said in response, "Residents from various religions and ethnic groups live in the properties on the development authority in Lod, and figures from Amidar prove this. There is therefore no reason to allege discrimination on any basis whatsoever. The municipality's request to Amidar does not involve the tenants living in those properties; it involves many available properties managed by Amidar. Due to the state of these properties, marketing them will not benefit the town or the area in which they are located, which is zoned for tourism development, among other things.
"The municipality, which is in advanced talks with ILA and Amidar, insists that these properties be transferred to its use, so that they will be developed and used for the benefit of the public in the town in accordance with the development plan. Furthermore, some of the properties contain building violations, and the Lod municipality insists that these violations be dealt with first."
Development in Lod, which has been accelerating in recent years, will change the face of the town and the composition of its population.
Lod and the Ministry of Finance signed a roof agreement in May 2017 setting a construction target of 17,237 housing units in the coming years. 3,130 housing units under the roof agreement will be marketed in new neighborhoods in the town, while the bulk of the housing units, 14,107, will be marketed in areas designated for transfer from Moshav Ben Shemen and Moshav Nir Tzvi to Lod. The roof agreement provides for an additional 3,000 housing units in the framework of urban renewal, among other things through a state undertaking to provide additional land.
The roof agreement includes upgrading the town's transportation infrastructure. The eastern and western parts of the town will be connected to the town center.
©2018 the Globes (Tel Aviv, Israel)
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