The housing countdown

According to the Knesset's research division, about 8,800 people were evacuated from 25 settlements, 21 in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria.

According to the Knesset's research division, about 8,800 people were evacuated from 25 settlements, 21 in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria. The Knesset counts 1,750 families who were forced to leave their homes, but Sela says 1,600 families are entitled to full housing compensation at this time. Of those families, some 200 purchased or built homes throughout the country outside a communal structure. Some 1,400 families have chosen to remain in a communal structure like they had in Gaza or Samaria. In many cases the full consideration of what makes a family unit is complex and often involves subdivisions. Among the subsets could be an older child who lived at home at the time of disengagement but who is now engaged to be married and needs a home. It could be a couple who divorced, so that while in Gaza they needed only one home, but now they need two. Or it may be elderly parents who need to live near their adult children so they can be cared for. The authority has therefore set aside 2,600 housing lots in addition to the 1,400. These can be purchased for a fee, the sum and payment structure of which are often worked out as part of the overall communal contract for the site. There were also renters among the people in Gaza and Samaria. Rent in Gaza was very cheap, in some cases $300 a month. These families were not transients or newcomers. In many cases they had lived there for years and were very involved in their communities. Now they are looking to remain with these communities, but lack the funds to build; they do not receive homeowners' compensation and only get money for time spent in Gaza and other considerations involved in the evacuation. But the basic measure of the completion of permanent housing for the evacuees falls back on the 1,400 families. All those families now live in temporary homes. Some 100 have not yet decided where they want to live. This means that either they have not signed onto an existing communal project, or are involved in a communal project that is at such an elementary stage that no final site has been determined. Thus they do not appear in many housing calculations. To complicate matters in the other direction, there are a number of families who have hedged their bets and signed onto more than one project, thereby artificially swelling the numbers. Absent also from the projects listed by Sela are two groups that appear on a communal list put out by the evacuees. Within the first group are families from the Gaza settlement of Shirat Hayam that wanted to move to Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, a move that was rejected by the Defense Ministry in January. The second group includes evacuees from Morag who already live in the West Bank settlement of Tene Omarim. This leaves roughly 1,300 families who are split among 24 different living options in various stages of completion. When looking at the number of families that would live in any of these communities, one has to assume that the numbers in most cases are representative and not exact, except in cases where contracts have been signed, and few communities have reached this stage. SELA IS RESPONSIBLE for getting the families to the point where they can build. It acquires the land, works on permits and oversees the completion of infrastructure, including roads, sewage and electricity. But the actual construction of the homes is done by the families themselves, so all end dates for Sela have to do with getting the evacuees to this point. The number of families who have permission to build is very small, 133 or some 10 percent. Construction is starting in three new communities, Mavki'im (25 families), Bat Hadar (23) and Magen Shaul (seven). In Yad Binyamin (50) and Yad Hanna (28), construction can start this month. An additional two communities - Nitzan (250 families) and Nitzanim (319) - could start building if it were not for ongoing disputes regarding the projects. Had these disputes not existed, 703 families, or about 50 percent of the population, could now be constructing homes. In Nitzanim, the largest project, construction could have begun close to a year ago were it not for an ongoing dispute with the city of Ashkelon over whether or not the area is within its municipal boundaries. These families, like most of the evacuees, want to be their own autonomous community, and do not want to be within the municipality. They are waiting until the dispute is settled before they sign up for housing lots. In Nitzan, there is a dispute between the evacuees and Sela over the purchase price and payment schedule for those families who are not eligible to receive lots as part of their compensation packages. The remaining families are split among 16 projects. Some have tentative dates: Ariel (15), Avnei Eitan (15), Shomriya (22) and a section of Ashkelon called Golf (92) are all expected to be ready for construction around November. After that Talmei Yafe (20) and Bustan Hagalil (26) are slated for December 2007. In addition, Halutzit 1 and 4, (100) have a start date of February 2008, Hafetz Haim (64) May 2008 and Yesodot (44) July 2008. But these dates are projected and not set in stone. The remaining projects, however, are a few stages behind and do not yet have dates: Ein Tzurim (31), Palmahim (30), Amatzia (40), Hazan (81), Mersham (23), Carmit (21), and a group led by Avi Farhan (15), which has not yet settled on the final site for their homes. But currently, work has begun on only some 40 homes. Overall, the projects that are the most advanced or for which construction could occur largely began prior to disengagement.