Likud MKs protest cuts to urban rehabilitation program

Many poor neighborhoods, the MKs said, would be abandoned by the program.

tel aviv poverty 88 (photo credit: )
tel aviv poverty 88
(photo credit: )
Likud MKs visited the Hatikva neighborhood in Tel Aviv on Thursday in protest of Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit's decision in January to reduce Neighborhood Rehabilitation funding in some 60 neighborhoods and municipalities to focus the program's budget on 37 neighborhoods in the periphery. Many poor neighborhoods, the MKs said, would be abandoned by the plan because the method for determining where the program would continue excluded poor neighborhoods located in prosperous municipalities. As an example, the visit on Thursday brought attention to Tel Aviv's poverty-stricken Hatikva neighborhood, and Likud MKs lamented the "absurdity" of stopping its rehabilitation because it was lumped for purposes of measurement with the rest of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, including the wealthy northern suburbs. The Neighborhood Rehabilitation program is divided into two complimentary rehabilitation programs - social programming and physical beautification and upkeep. The changes to the Neighborhood Rehabilitation program would not remove social programs, such as providing college scholarships or funding kindergartens, from the neighborhoods in which they are currently operating, but physical rehabilitation would be "focused [in] fewer neighborhoods," a spokesman for Sheetrit told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "The Neighborhood Rehabilitation budget has been dropping for ten years," said the spokesman, with 2007 marking the first year in which the budget drop was halted. "It's true we're focusing our efforts [into fewer neighborhoods]," he continued. "[Sheetrit's] decision was that spending NIS 300,000 on upkeep in a poor neighborhood [the current average, according to the Housing and Construction spent, the problems in the neighborhoods have remained. Now we're focusing [these funds] into 37 neighborhoods, where each neighborhood will get approximately three times the budget, and they will be able to do much more than ever before," he said. But Likud MKs protested the ministry's focus on poor areas in Israel's geographic periphery, noting that neighborhoods such as Hatikva were as economically disadvantaged as poor Negev towns like Yeroham. As Likud head MK Binyamin Netanyahu told the Post during the visit, "social peripheries are no less needy than geographic peripheries." "There isn't necessarily a connection between geographic location and socioeconomic suffering," agreed MK Gilad Erdan. Asked why a relatively wealthy city such as Tel Aviv couldn't take up the burden of the physical rehabilitation of its own Hatikva neighborhood, Shaike Drori, a Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council Member from the Likud Party who chairs the municipality's Infrastructure and Parks Committee, noted the legal limitations placed on municipal funds. "Most of the city's income comes from taxes, and the law limits how high those [taxes] can be, and also requires that the city maintain a balanced budget," he told the Post. "Those funds [collected by the city] are then spent on areas, such as infrastructure, for which the municipality is legally responsible," he said, noting that this severely limits the budget for other programs, even in well-funded municipalities.