Israeli Government Backs Bill to Make Mortgages More Accessible to Disabled

Bill by opposition lawmaker hopes to change banks' policy of denying mortgages to disabled people just because he or she cannot get life insurance.

MK Karin Elharar in the Knesset, 2013.
Michal Fattal

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation agreed Sunday to back a private member bill sponsored by MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) that would block banks from denying mortgages to those with serious disabilities because they cannot get life insurance. This means the bill will go to the Knesset with government backing.

Today the banks, which have full discretion over whom they lend money to, do not let the seriously disabled take out mortgages because no insurance company will issue a policy that will pay off the mortgage in the event the borrower dies. Thus, people with brain damage, autism or muscular dystrophy cannot obtain mortgages, even if their financial situation would otherwise make them eligible.

Dana (not her real name), who is a deaf mute, has spent five years battling the banks in an effort to get a mortgage. “She has about 40 percent of the cost of the apartment she wants as a down payment, but for the banks that’s not enough,” said a representative of the Yedid association, which is trying to assist her.

Elharrar’s bill amends the Banking Law (Customer Service) so that a bank could not deny a mortgage to a disabled person just because he or she cannot get life insurance.

“I welcome the ministerial committee’s saying ‘yes’ today to equal opportunity for all and ‘no’ to discrimination, and for recognizing that all citizens of the State of Israel have a right to housing,” Elharrar said. “This bill is not aimed at harming the banks, but at removing the major obstacles faced by the disabled as they seek to obtain a mortgage. This is a point of light in the darkness and along the long road that remains until we can assure full equality for all.”