- thawra abukhdeir
Open Company Branches for Housing and Rental Aid in Arab Localities
Arab localities in Israel are characterized by high poverty rates and severe housing shortages. Despite the acute housing shortage, eligibility for housing assistance in Arab society is significantly underutilized. According to the Knesset Research and Information Center, a mere 3.4% of those receiving rental assistance reside in Arab localities. Furthermore, 0.3% of the residents in Arab localities receive rental assistance, compared to 1.6% of the residents of Jewish localities, and 1.9% of the residents of mixed localities.
Neglecting to exercise rights to housing assistance, stems from a series of structural barriers perpetuated via government policy over the decades. One of them is the near total absence of branches of both housing companies and those that provide housing assistance services in these localities. Such companies solely operate in Jewish localities (aside from the city of Nazareth), and lack branches in many Arab cities that exceed the size of Jewish localities wherein branches exist, such as Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Arraba, Rahat, and Umm al-Fahm. In early 2020, a service point was opened in the community of Sakhnin to provide housing assistance services through a “pilot” program one day a week. Over the past two years, no additional branches or service centers have been opened in Arab localities, such that aid services effectively remain inaccessible to residents of Arab localities.
On July 20, 2022, we appealed to the Minister of Construction and Housing regarding the matter. Attorney Reut Shaer claimed that this policy discriminates against the Arab population and violates residents of Arab localities’ constitutional rights to dignity, livelihood, shelter, and equality. She noted that preventing one of the most vulnerable populations in Israel from receiving equal access to housing assistance services, contradicts the purpose of the public housing system, and that the Ministry of Housing is responsible for exercising its powers to distribute public resources equitably and reasonably. We thus requested that they:
Formulate an outline for opening branches or service points for housing assistance companies in Arab towns and cities in a manner that reflects the portion of Arabs among the general population, and particularly those in need of housing assistance.
Anchor housing and rental assistance companies’ obligation to establish and operate branches and service points in contractual agreements and the tenders that they publish for the provision of their services, upon the date of their upcoming renewal.