Data Discrepancy Between Ministries Leaves Thousands of Elderly Immigrants Without Assistance

Housing Ministry report seems to leave some 30,000 people off list of immigrants entitled to housing assistance.

A report filed by the Housing and Construction Ministry on immigrants entitled to housing assistance seems to have left some 30,000 people off the eligibility rolls, compared to a previous report published by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.

According to the Housing Ministry figures published in June, some 9,000 immigrant households are eligible for public housing. But the Absorption Ministry's report last October had listed 39,401 immigrant households as eligible, among them 30,000 elderly people. An immigrant, for this purpose, is defined as anyone who legally arrived in Israel within the past 10 years.

Asked how 30,000 mostly elderly people disappeared between the two reports, the Housing Ministry originally said, "The source of our data regarding the number of immigrant families is the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and they are the ones who need to be asked."

The Absorption Ministry insists that the Housing Ministry is incorrect, and "the Immigrant Absorption Ministry stands behind the figures it published."

Further inquiry into the discrepancy in figures prompted a different response from the Housing Ministry.

"The rules of the Housing and Construction Ministry are set in an effort to create correspondence between the available apartments in public housing projects and the number of those eligible for these apartments. As a result, the number of those [deemed] eligible by the ministry is much lower than those [deemed] eligible by the Absorption Ministry.

The Housing Ministry publishes reports on public housing eligibility every quarter, and in its first quarter report, released in March, there are also only 9,000 households listed. That same month, the government decided, based on the conclusions of the Trajtenberg Committee, to allocate another NIS 160 million for rental assistance to those eligible for public housing. But due to the fact that many elderly people were left off the Housing Ministry's list, the aid increase for seniors was lower than for other sectors.

Under the government decision, for example, families with up to three children, who had received NIS 1,250 a month in rental assistance while waiting for public housing, would now be getting NIS 2,500 a month, while families with four or more children would see their rental assistance grow from NIS 1,550 to NIS 3,000 a month. Disabled immigrants in wheelchairs also saw their rental aid go up from NIS 1,500 to NIS 2,500 for an individual and to NIS 3,000 for those with a family.

But for elderly immigrants, the aid only increased 10 percent; previously, an elderly person got NIS 600 in aid up to age 70; today he gets NIS 661.

Alex Tenzer, an elderly immigrant activist, saw the discrepancy in the two ministries' reports and filed a complaint with the state comptroller. He called it "a stinking maneuver in which the Housing Ministry gave the Trajtenberg Committee and the government partial data ... As a result, 30,000 elderly people, many of them Holocaust survivors, got practically no increase in their assistance."

The Housing Ministry said, "Of course, any immigrant family that meets all our ministry's criteria can come and apply for the enlarged assistance," adding that an immigrant who is wheelchair-bound would get the same assistance as an elderly immigrant.

An immigrant absorption center in Kiryat Gat.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz