Court orders state: Answer Meretz housing petition

Efforts aimed to force government to implement 1998 law to help poor buy their apartments.

Meretz public housing protest 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Meretz public housing protest 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday gave the state two weeks to respond to a Meretz petition to implement the 1998 Public Housing Law that was passed to help the poor buy their apartments.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon and other activists filed the petition and led demonstration in front of the courthouse in which former MK and sponsor of the law Ran Cohen participated.
The “government continues as usual to turn away from the poorer sectors. The request for an extension is an additional stamp of injustice for the Netanyahu government to evade and indirectly refuse to execute the law regarding improving public housing,” Gilon said.
“We expect the High Court to address the issue quickly and to obligate implementing the law immediately,” he added.
Outgoing Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) and outgoing Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) were being sued in the petition, which demanded that both ministers take actions under the law necessary to implement its provisions.
The two petitioners who are claiming they have been harmed by non-implementation of the law live in Herzliya and claim that the authorities have refused to sell them their public housing unit even though the petitioners say they can fulfill the law’s conditions for purchasing it.
According to the petition, although the law was approved in 1998, its implementation has been repeatedly frozen since then and all the way until January 1, 2013.
The petition lamented the extended official freezing of the law, but mostly focused on the idea that now that the law was “unfrozen” on January 1, it must be implemented immediately.
The law allows the less wealthy living in public housing to buy their apartments at set lower rates.
It also stipulates that all money obtained by the sales of public housing under the law must be used to promote more public housing.
The petition said that despite a general freeze, the state had used the law four times for temporary set periods and in specific areas to implement a series of significant sales of public housing.
In 1990-2000, 3,800 units were sold, 16,070 units were sold from 2000-2004, from 2005-2010 10,030 units were sold in the sales offering “This is my house,” and from 2008-2010 3,500 units were sold in the sales offering “My apartment.”
Still, throughout this period, all sales were limited to certain age groups, locales and other categories that, according to the petition, significantly limited use of the law for most or many of the population whom it was passed to help.
Moreover, during that time, the revenue from the four sales offerings totaled NIS 2.75 billion, said the petition, noting that none of the money was used to promote public housing as required by law.