ACRI amends law to enable impoverished residents to keep their homes

building-by-Emily-Schneider

Dear Friends,

 

During the sweltering heat of the summer I am proud to bring you some refreshing news about a significant achievement to guarantee housing rights in urban renewal projects. Until recently, “pinui-binui” (evacuation-reconstruction) projects were generally considered to be a method that benefits everyone: The residents received a bigger apartment, the city was modernizing itself and the real estate supply increased. The logic was that it was necessary to build more projects, faster. However, the reality of evacuation-reconstruction projects disguises many of the damages it causes to low-income communities, to the elderly, to tenants and to residents of public housing. In effect, evacuation-reconstruction projects can constitute a disaster for these communities, because it pushes them from one impoverished neighborhood to another, diminishing their income and significantly raising their maintenance costs.

 

We have been hard at work over the last year to promote a change in this policy, together with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, The Forum for Public Housing and other civil society organizations. We participated in meetings hosted by the special committee discussing the bill for a government authority for urban renewal, we submitted position papers and lobbied decision makers, stressing the need to take social issues into consideration, and to make sure to defend the rights of veteran tenants and residents of public housing in the relevant areas. The hard work paid off! Last week the Knesset decided to make significant amendments to the bill that make for a more just urban renewal plan that prevents the expulsion of residents from their homes.

 

Among other things, a new objective was added to the bill that hadn’t been defined from the outset: to provide an appropriate response to the needs of the communities living in areas designated for urban renewal. The bill also determines that underprivileged communities will be entitled to municipal tax breaks. In addition, a representative of the civil society organizations will be a member of the committee that advises the authority. And most importantly – it was determined that the residents of public housing are entitled to continue living in the new apartments without any increase to their current rental or maintenance fees. This achievement comes just a year and a half after we exposed a harmful internal directive by the Ministry of Housing that would have ensured residents of public housing are kicked out of these projects.

 

The law is not perfect, and some of the proposals we made were not accepted, but the changes that were made are significant – and no less important – the discourse on the issue has shifted. We will continue following the establishment of the authority for urban renewal in order to promote a process that is more socially just, and that serves the interests of all the residents, not just the entrepreneurs.

 

Yours,

 

Sharon


Sharon Abraham-Weiss
Executive Director
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel

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