Israel's Housing Ministry has renewed action against hundreds of public housing residents facing court ordered evictions, following a six-month moratorium.
Last November, on the eve of submitting the state budget and under pressure from MK Michael Biton (Kahol Lavan), the ministry halted enforcement of evictions in some 350 cases already decided by the court. It decided to wait for the decision of a joint committee from the social affairs, economy and housing ministries to review all the cases. Fifteen cases were recently sent to the confiscation office ahead of eviction. Although housing officials say the step was taken in cases the committee reviewed, in at least one case that didn’t happen.
The State Prosecutor’s Office opposed the moratorium, leading to a confrontation between Housing Minister Zeev Elkin and Deputy Attorney General Carmit Yulis. Elkin and the State Prosecutor’s Office eventually agreed that the freeze would continue, but that anyone who wouldn’t meet the new criteria would be evicted. At the same time, there are groups that will not be included in the criteria that the committee discussed. For example, some residents live in the home of an eligible parent who died. Regarding them, Biton intends to submit an amendment in the coming session. The agreement allows for eviction of these residents despite the moratorium, and two residents have already been evicted.
In one case, the details of which Haaretz has obtained, a single mother with a history of emotional problems was living in the public housing apartment that her late mother had lived in. She was ordered to evacuate the home by next week, after public housing company Amidar asked permission from the confiscation office to carry out the court ordered eviction. Following an inquiry by Haaretz and a petition filed with the court, Amidar put the eviction on hold. Now it intends to go through with it.
In another case, a man living in a home in the north where his late mother had lived received an eviction order. The court rejected his petition for a stay order, and he was evicted. The joint committee did not review his case, thus the eviction was not in line with the internal agreement between the Housing Ministry and the Economic Affairs Committee.
“The people that the ministry wants to throw out into the street are homeless people who lived in these apartments their whole lives and are considered second-generation residents. Thus the Housing Ministry’s move is cruel and contrary to the agreements with the Economic Affairs Committee,” Danny Gigi, director of the Public Housing Forum, said. “We call on all those with a hand in the matter to stop this cruelty immediately.”
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The Justice Ministry’s legal aid office told Haaretz: “We are saddened that Amidar is renewing evictions, despite the Housing Ministry not issuing any announcement on the matter.”
According to data provided to the Economic Affairs Committee in November by the Housing Ministry, 120 residents were forcibly evicted from 2019 until the moratorium in 2021. In the previous three years, from 2016 to 2018, there were no forcible evictions from public housing. The earliest ruling ordering an evacuation that wasn’t carried out came in 1991.
The Housing Ministry commented: “Further to discussions in the Economic Affairs Committee and in coordination with the Justice Ministry, the Housing and Construction Ministry, led by the director, has acted to review the cases designated for eviction... We emphasize that everyone whose case the committee debated was offered to leave the property and to receive rental assistance of up to 3,500 shekels ($1,020) for four months.”
Amidar said it operates in line with Housing Ministry policy. Regarding the exceptional eviction, Amidar stated: “The eviction was done according to court decisions and subject to the ruling but before receiving Construction and Housing Ministry approval for the recommendation of the interministerial committee for executing the eviction. We note that the court rejected out of hand the squatter’s request for postponing procedures.”