Saturday, September 22

Yaffawiye Blues

No posts for almost a month. I'm in real distress. Yes, me. I'm losing my home.

The owner of my apartment is selling the place. It's the second time this happens to me in less than two years. Loosing my home to the Jaffa real estate market. To the sharks.
The owner of my home works in a lawyers office and has been known to sue people for very little reason. (My neighbours for instance have been sued by the lady), so i have to be careful about what i write here. I cannot really afford to write about what i truly feel about her. But you guys can guess it, i suppose.

I CAN write however, about what it means to look for a reasonable flat on the housing market. Nothing fancy, just a simple place to live in, which will not cost more than half my monthly income.

And while looking for a place for myself, i also run around with the "H" family (about whome i have written) and with the "K" family, who received eviction and demolition orders concerning the homes they have lived in since birth. I run around with them from layer to layer, to the courts, tracing and finding ancient documents in archives, in order to find proof they and their families have lived in the house from before 1948.
It takes up much time and energy. But what makes it more difficult, is that i am, on the practical level, in the same boat. Until now, i myself never felt like a victim. But the huge real estate monster is devouring me, piece by piece.

So, here goes, "looking for an apartment in south Tel Aviv Jaffa".

There are various websites dedicated to finding rental apartments and on first sight they don't look bad: check the right parameters and a whole list of flats in the selected area appears on screen in milliseconds. However, more than half of the flats are rented out within a few hours of being published.
All owners insist during the initial phone talk, their flats are beautiful, with lots of light, good airflow etc. Prices are up in the sky, in comparison to a few years ago.
So i make an appointment to come and view the flat , on X-day, between 10 and 10.30. Arriving a few minutes early, a group of about 20 (sometimes 30) prospective tenants wait for the owner. Everybody is friendly and polite, but the truth is, we are in a run against each other.
The owner shows the place. True, there IS an air-conditioner, but it is ancient and has not worked for a few years now. Yes, it used to be a three room apartment, but now it has been cut up into a 2 tiny two-room ones, a thin prefab wall functioning as border between the two housing units.
OK, the kitchen is really a kitchenette and there is no room nor tap for a washing machine. No, the old cupboard MUST stay in the flat, it's a heritage from the owner's great grandmother and cannot be throw out. The new thin paint layer does little to hide the huge humidity spots. The paint is already flaking. Two windows cannot be opened, because the neighbor built an addition so close to it, that the walls simply block the window. There is still a 5-cm space for some fresh air though between that wall and the window, but, no way to open it.

But, people are desperate, so the bidding starts. The ad said the rent is 500$ a month, but someone offers 550$. Someone else 575$. Then the current tenant (who is still living there but will leave in a few days) states, that the flat will go to who buys his furniture from him for a mere 2000 NIS. Stuff he probably found on the street, by the looks of it. I am all for recycling, but this is outrageous. Someone agrees. The "lucky" new inhabitant has agreed to pay $570 for a tiny square meters flat, one bedroom, a small living room with kitchenette, a tiny shower and toilet combo. It's dingy, it's hot and stuffy as well as quite dark. There is no airflow as 2 windows cannot be opened. Another shark is very happy.
The new tenant has also paid 2000 NIS for stuff she'll probably put out in the street prior to moving in. She visibly pregnant and urgently needs a place for herself and her baby, she will be paying more than 60% of her monthly income to the happy shark

Once upon a time most of the flats on the rental market, would be places people inherited from a grandparent who died. Until deciding what to do with it, they would rent it out for a few years. the price would be reasonable. Everybody knows that people aren't rich. There was no feeling of abuse.
Today's rental market is completely different. Wealthy rats buy up every house on the market. they sub-divide it into tiny units making use of the cheapest building materials available. Then they rent the flats out for the highest price they can possibly get. Prices have sky-rocketed while salaries have stayed the same. Electricity, water and municipal taxes have gone up as well, so people pay more than 50% of their small income just to have a roof above their heads. There is little money for food and other basics, and no money for any small luxuries, which once were occasional treats. Even buying a new pair of glasses or going to the dentist no longer belong to things one can afford.
In the mean time, the rats are getting richer and richer.

There is no-rent control. There is no protection. Contracts are draconian. I have met rats who demand a 4000 NIS cash payment in addition to the rent as "security". for what? Only hell knows, after all, the bills (electricity, municipality etc.) are in the inhabitant's names and the flat is empty. Just another way of making quick money. Oh, the wonders of the free economy.
Today is Yom Kipur, a day of fasting and of repentance . But i feel very angry and frustrated.

Ha'aretz newspaper continues its stories of the great new option of the Jaffa real estate market and the tons of money to be made on it. The greedy rats are all over the place in their fancy SUV jeeps and Mercedes Benz cars. Happy and pleased with themselves. "Such excellent business opportunities", while toasting once more over their fancy dinners at "Rafael's" or in the "Kantina", or maybe even over a plate of humus at "Abu Hassan's" in order to feel "local".
No one mentions the underside. No one.