Eligibility for Public Housing- Public Housing Forum's Position
Tens of thousands of public apartments in Israel barely meet the minimum requirements for the government to uphold its duty to provide affordable housing for the general public. As of 2021, the total amount of public housing stood at approximately 52,000 apartments, placing Israel at a very low ranking regarding the proportion of public housing among all existing apartments in the country.
The Public Housing Forum, which ACRI is a member of, views public housing as a mechanism to reduce inequality, deal with intergenerational poverty, and help people move up the social ladder from one generation to the next. We think that public housing shouldn't just be a temporary fix for people in need. Instead, it should be a key part of policies that cover all aspects of housing.
Eligibility criteria for public housing have not been updated for many years, turning public housing into an alternative to which very few are entitled. In the backdrop of the public struggle led by the organizations and activists of the Public Housing Forum, in November of 2021, the Ministry of Housing announced that it intends to establish a public committee to examine criteria for public housing eligibility.
This document presents the Public Housing Forum’s position regarding necessary changes in public housing eligibility criteria and is the result of joint work by the activists and organizations that are members and supporters of the forum. From an understanding that such change is long-term and intermediary, the Public Housing Forum demands immediate and significant expansion of existing criteria for public housing eligibility.
A. Eliminate threshold requirements for the number of children and eligibility for income support, and determine an alternative income threshold: The use of such rigid criteria entirely denies eligibility among a broad population that requires housing assistance. The criterion regarding the number of children is irrelevant to housing eligibility, harming families with fewer children and individuals who also suffer from acute housing crises.
In place of such criteria, an alternative income threshold should be designated that must be no lower than the poverty line, and additional characteristics may be used to prioritize considerations rather than as a determining criterion for eligibility. In particular, the population eligible for public housing should include single mothers receiving child support, people with mental disabilities, and members of the working class whose income level is low though they do not meet the strict requirements to receive income benefits.
B. Entrench and strengthen the continuing tenant principle in public housing: The option to transfer eligibility for public housing to familial relatives and close relations must be expanded and made more flexible in the event of the death of the eligible tenant or their move to a nursing home. The Public Housing Forum believes that the continuing tenant principle is an important principle that helps reduce inequality and gives people a chance to get out of poverty that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is important to anchor and strengthen the law around this principle.
C. Change the definition of “homeless” to serve as a threshold criterion for public housing eligibility: The definition of "homelessness" in the criteria for public housing eligibility should be compared to the definition included in the framework of programs to purchase subsidized housing, such as “price per tenant” or “target price”—namely, non-ownership of an apartment for three years, as opposed to the ten that currently stands.
D. Regulate Mechanisms for the Public Housing Exceptions Committee: As part of the demand to change and expand criteria for public housing eligibility, the Exceptions Committee’s mechanism must also be improved, which is currently conducted without transparency or ensuring due process.
H. Public Housing for the Elderly: The existing criteria for public housing does not enable the elderly to exercise their eligibility for public housing, beyond retirement homes alone. The elderly’s eligibility for public housing must be regulated to enable agency in exercising their eligibility between public housing and an apartment in a retirement home.