State Comptroller report: Over 2,000 public housing apartments rented to non-eligible residents

Eligibility measured according to person’s socio-economic situation, physical condition and salary potential.

Apartment in Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Apartment in Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Some 2,300 apartments out of the 63,500 the government has designated for public housing are being rented to parties that are not eligible for public housing, according to the latest State Comptroller’s Report, which came out on Tuesday.
The factors that determine eligibility for public housing – which companies such as Amidar manage on behalf of the government – are a person’s socioeconomic situation, physical condition and salary potential.
However, according to data the report cited from the Construction and Housing Ministry, about 2,500 people eligible for the apartments – both families and individuals – remain on the waiting list for placement. A large number of them have been waiting for over 10 years.
The report revealed that those renting the 2,300 wrongly allocated apartments are public institutions such as local authorities, education institutions, ministries, NGOs, hospitals and urban kibbutzim. The apartments often serve as housing for soldiers, students and teachers, among others, and some even serve as synagogues.
In the report, the state comptroller strongly emphasized the country’s legal duty to protect the rights of its weakest populations and run a system guaranteeing housing to its citizens in order to provide them with shelter and protection.
It is part of the country’s duty to make sure its people live with the dignity to which they are entitled as human beings, and public housing plays a central role in that, the report said.
The state comptroller quoted the law that “a person who is homeless is a person whose dignity is harmed, and a person who is forced to live in humiliating material conditions is a person whose dignity is harmed.”
“There is nothing poetic about living in poverty and distress,” the comptroller wrote.
“Without minimal material conditions, a person does not have the ability to create, aspire to something, make his own choices or exercise his freedom.”
The comptroller’s inspection, conducted between August 2011 and December 2012, found that 240 of the 2,300 apartments were rented for private purposes, serving as offices and as housing for local authority workers and employees at private companies. One of them is even in use as a vacation home for Amidar employees.
In response to the findings, the Construction and Housing Ministry said that “the state comptroller is right in his criticism,” but added that the report was mostly based on the allocation of apartments according to an old procedure, which was changed in January 2012.
In addition, the ministry explained that the phenomenon of renting public-housing apartments to public authorities had been going on for over 60 years, as there were shortages in spaces for public institutions.
In fact, it said, many of the apartments in question had initially been built for purposes other than public housing and been mistakenly counted among those designated for people in need.
“About 1,000 out of the 2,300 apartments that the comptroller mentions are not potential public-housing apartments and were never included in the available number of public- housing apartments,” the ministry wrote.
“They include 500 apartments which were built by the government in new neighborhoods for public institutions in the first place, until 30 years ago,” the statement continued, noting that “350 apartments are adjacent to hospitals and serve hospital staff, and over 100 were built by the government in kibbutzim.”
To remedy the problem, the ministry stated that it had ordered local authorities and institutions renting apartments in high-demand areas to vacate them.
In lower-demand areas, the authorities were asked either to purchase the apartments or to pay a more appropriate rent for them.
“Local authorities that do not comply with the instructions will be considered to be trespassing, and therefore legal action will be taken against them,” the statement added.
“The ministry did and will continue to do what is necessary to improve the issue and will work to reallocate those apartments for their original purpose – serving people eligible for public housing.”
The ministry also stated that it had already begun taking measures to solve the problem a few years prior to the report.