Grants for students living in J'lem center to end

New scholarships will encourage living in periphery neighborhoods; grants were funded by gov't to encouraged youth to keep city center lively.

StudentsAtHebrewU311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The six-year grant program for university students in Jerusalem who put up with the noise and chaos of living in the center of the city during the construction of the light rail is coming to an end.
The grants, which were funded by the government and administered by the Jerusalem Development Agency to encourage young people to keep the center of the capital from becoming a wasteland, end this year, the JDA announced recently.
Hebrew University Student Union president Yuval Admon criticized the JDA for not warning the students that their grants were about to end, instead waiting until the middle of the exam period for students to find out that they would not receive financial help for next year. The grants ranged from NIS 5,500 to NIS 3,400.
“Because the city was going through massive renovations, including the light rail, building and paving the sidewalks, and big infrastructure projects, the JDA asked the government for a grant that would encourage students to live there, because we knew it was going to be a difficult six years,” said Naomi Solomon, the project manager of the Jerusalem Academic City Project at the JDA.
“With the end of the projects, there is no reason to subsidize people living here, because it’s going to become the most popular place to live and there’s no reason for the government to subsidize this.”
City Councillor Merav Cohen noted that the city center grant program became ineffective almost immediately the landlords heard about it, because they promptly raised rents to almost exactly the amount of the grant.
“The landlords raised the prices after they heard about the grants, but now that the grants have ended they’re not going to lower the prices,” said Admon.
“[The students] won’t be able to find new apartments.
This could have been done three or six months ago,” he said, blaming poor communication between JDA, the municipality and the student union for the surprise announcement.
Rather than renew the grant program in the center, the JDA is switching its focus to the city’s periphery, and will instead award scholarships to groups of students who choose to live in organized communities in the city’s less wealthy neighborhoods.
The communities of 20 to 30 students will live in neighborhoods such as Talpiot, Kiryat Hayovel, Katamonim and French Hill, and be required to volunteer 200 hours of their time in the first year. The communities will be run by the activist organizations Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit) and Tzei’irim Bamercaz (Youth in the City), and could start as early as next year.
These scholarships, called “We’re Making a Neighborhood,” will be open to students starting their third year of university, and will last for three years, in an effort to keep young people in the city after they finish their degrees.
The scholarships will start at NIS 9,000 for the first year, funded by the government and Perah, a national organization that subsidizes the rent of university students who live in struggling neighborhoods and volunteer in the community. The communities will have a budget from the municipality to pursue larger projects they find necessary, such as creating a nursery school.
“I love it that they’re trying to bring young people to the new neighborhoods, to work and develop weaker neighborhoods in the city,” said Cohen.
Solomon agreed. “The emphasis is to create something that envelops not just a social life but also employment, also connections to the neighborhood where they’re living, to stitch together a package with all of the reasons they should stay in Jerusalem,” she explained.
“Because there are many reasons students leave Jerusalem, not just work, or just apartment prices. There are a variety of reasons. Like maybe they found a job and a good apartment in Jerusalem but their group of friends all moved to Tel Aviv so they leave as well.”
According to the JDA, six years ago there were approximately 130 university students in the city center, though today that number has grown to 1,500.
Rehov Hanevi’im and King George Avenue are the most popular streets for students, with each housing 10 percent of the students in the center.