Tuesday, August 30

Gentrification's Damage

This morning i read in the newspaper the Housing Ministry is going to establish a special legal unit to evict people from public housing.
In order to qualify for public housing you need a special permit, which is very difficult to get. You need to be really poor and have absolutely no other option available. Moreover, you may not have owned a house in the past.
Even so there are huge waiting lists for people who do qualify for public housing. They have to wait for many years in order to receive the keys to a small slum appartment in one of the public housing ghettos.
Jaffa has several of these and all are strong contestants in the "worst slum in the country" contest.
Crime rates, drug dependency rates, violence, school drop out, you name it, they have it.
Yet many people come from families who once owned Jaffa's lovely old buildings.
Thousands of these buildings, many of them home to Palestinians who were made to leave Jaffa in 1948, have been destoyed. the rubble thrown into the sea, to create the "Givat HaZevel", the rubbish mountain. Other families moved into the big luxurious houses left by the refugees: In houses belonging to one family, often 6 to 10 families were housed under cramped conditions. Although very lovely, the closeness to sea creates a continuous demand for the upkeep of the houses, which has not been adequatelyt provided by the public housing companies responsible for housing so many homeless families in the ancient mansions left by the Palestinian aristocracy who once used to live in Jaffa. As a result the buildings deteriorated badly. In some caes the new owners were able to buy housing rights of the buildings from the state. Yet the upkeepwas expensive and the often unemployed inhabitants, were not able to carry out the necessary repairs. Also, many could not pay the mortgages. so in the end they lost their property as well as the right to public housing (because they had been "house owners, therefore not eligible).
But for the others, in comes the municipality offering the people "modern public housing" and many are attracted by the new flats, erected close to the Muslim graveyard and the sea. Thus the ghetto was formed. Very badly constructed and maintained public flats.

The old Arab houses? Well those that weren't destroyed are undergoing a process of gentrification:

Buildings have been bought for little money by enterpreneurs, who turn them into high class appartment compounds for the very wealthy. This process has driven up the housing prices for young couples beyond anything they can afford.

As a result married sons stay in their parents house with their wife and children, and just add another room or close a balcony in order to turn it into a room.
Building permits are not to be had, so it is done illegally (by lack of any other option).
The space is maximized, doors turn into windows or the other way around. Each little nook and cranny is recycled into something useful.
Thus Jaffa has many patchwork houses.
Still there are no solutions for many of the people.

Evicting the poorest from their public housing is an idea i just do not grasp. These people do not pay because they have no money. Kicking them out, will their problems make only worse and more diificult to solve.

And what about some simple compassion? I know some of these families. They make continuos choices between buying medicine or food, paying the electricity bill or buying the kids schoolbooks (tmorrow is September the first) etc.
Often there literally is no food in the fridge.
Kicking them out with their children is inhumane.

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