Saturday, April 19

Halamish's little bag of tricks

In Jaffa there are several public housing apartments boarded up instead of being in use by the 200+ approved families on the waiting list.

To be approved for public housing, you need to be very poor (completely long term-dependent on social insurance payments only, due to e.g. disability and have at least 4 children, or a one-parent family social insurance dependent family, with at least three children). You need to take out an eligibility document, which needs to be renewed every 2 years (which costs money and is quite a procedure).

Families stay on the waiting list for many years. Some get tired or are to poor to renew the eligibility document (or realize that it leads only to more waiting so why bother?) so they no longer appear on the list, as they move in with family to live under impossible conditions (18 people in a small 2 bedroom flat) so the real needs are even more than appear on the list.
More over, there are some 500 eviction and demolition orders so the list will become even longer.

We (the popular committee against home demolitions, of which i am an active member) are trying to find out exactly how many flats are not in use. We know for a fact some flats have been empty for more than a year.
Halamish explains the flats are not fit for living because the Housing Ministry is not providing the money for the necessary renovations.
In a few cases i know for a fact this isn't true: there might be need for some minor repairs, but not more. e.g. the flat squatted by H and her 8 children (from which she was kicked out this week, onto the streets) was in a very fair condition, the windows had been taken out by Halamish themselves) to prevent squatting yet the flat had been empty for over more than a year.

Of course in other cases it may be quite true, but it isn't the whole truth. Last January Oreib Said Ahmad and her family were evicted from their home in Al Ajami's Etrog Street. The apartment they lived in had been renovated some years ago in a sloppy and dangerous manner and 2 of the rooms have serious problems. However, these are construction problems of a type that can be easily taken care of. The apartment is large and could easily house a family with 8 children. Yet it stands empty and boarded up since the eviction and the renovation has not started.
Yet there are 200+ families on the waiting list.

No money for renovations?
Weird, because that same Housing Ministry pays the 200 + families on the waiting list 1.200 NIS rent subsidy every month for renting housing on the private market.

Somehow the facts don't add up.

Or perhaps they do. Because when M. a disabled woman in the 4th month of her pregnancy and her disabled husband asked for public housing (they live in a privately rented flat on the 3rd floor no elevator). M has been informed by her doctor that from the 5th month of her pregnancy she will need to be in a wheelchair and her disabled husband will not be able to carry her in her chair up and down the three floors. They have been trying to find another flat (bottom floor or in a building with an elevator), but nothing they can afford (with rent subsidy), is available.
Halamish offered them a solution "within 48 hours" - if they will move to Lod. Right, to Lod. This is what they offer other families as well.
M. and her husband need and regularly receive the help (due to the couple's disabilities) of their extended family, who all live in Jaffa. In Lod , that help will not be available, therefore that "generous offer" is NOT a solution.
Jewish families can move to other public housing in Tel Aviv (e.g. or perhaps Bat Yam), but Arab families do not have that choice, as there are no Arab schools, mosques nor churches in Tel Aviv nor in Bat Yam. Therefore, Jaffa is their only option.
If all these poor and often weakened families move to Lod (which already is a completely marginalized slummy dysfunctional town), Lod will become even more desperate, as will the families, when their social networks will be broken.
The logical thing would be to construct more public housing in Jaffa. Not as another slummy estate, but as a part of each new building erected.
Building permits should be conditional upon allocating at least 15% of the flats for public housing in EACH project constructed in Jaffa, to be certified, guaranteed and maintained by the housing ministry.

Yet Halamish is doing something completely different: they are now offering people on the waiting list a deal: 10 years of larger rent subsidy (up to about 1800 NIS monthly) without having to renew the eligibility document. On first view, this sound like a good deal. The private market rent of a 2 bedroom "shikun" flat on the southern part of Jaffa's e.g. Jerusalem boulevard is about 2800 -3000 NIS. The offer takes the family off the waiting list for ten years. It SEEMS like a good deal and attractive to some of the absolutely desperate waiting list families.

But the deal carries a payload: 10 years is a long period of time. When a family enters a public housing flat, it's for life. If , however, the family accepts this deal, after 10 years the children will have grown up and once a child is 18+, he or she is no longer counted. Thus, the family may no longer be eligible for public housing after 10 years, as they no longer meet the criteria. Yet knowing the poverty life cycle, they probably will be as poor as before if not poorer. Halamish shorten the waiting list using a trick, but not really solving the problem.

The true solution (as poverty will not be ended so easily) lays obviously in construction for public housing.
Not 1 public housing flat has been constructed in Jaffa over the last 10 years, (although Halamish bought one small building with very large flats for eligible large and poor families) and that is where the root of the problem lays.
Jaffa has a very large poor population. The prices of housing have risen beyond all proportions. And Jaffa's sons and daughters (even of the middle class) can no longer afford housing in Jaffa. For Jewish families other neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv are an option. For Arab families this option doesn't exist, as there are no schools nor community and religious services in those areas. Their only option is in Jaffa.

Halamish and Amidar do not even consider construction in Jaffa. The municipality calls it "attracting strong populations" and i call it ethnic cleansing.

Passover, 2008

1 comment:

Lirun said...

batyam is a stone's throw away from yaffo and i know some arabs who have opted to live there.. since sold their properties and done well.. i walk to batyam from the north of yaffo is 20 minutes.. its not a big deal..

there is a fine line between social responsibility and tyranny of the poor.. no one said that poor people should have all the power rich people have necessarily..

i think it makes sense for the TA municipality to ensure that development includes low cost housing to ensure a healthy population mix and avoid yaffo turning into the ugly rich ghetto it is fast becoming..

but i think people can be realistic and proactive as well..

i have some neighbours who are obviously poor and it seems like the babies are coming out of instant pudding packages.. i too would love to have 12 kids.. but who says i deserve to have the state fund my personal desires..