Israel's Public Housing Law May Soon Be Revoked, Due to Treasury Pressure

Recent finance ministers have suspended the law, but resisted officials' attempts to annul it; Lapid, who heads the housing cabinet, said he would submit the proposal to the housing cabinet at one of its next meetings.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided on Wednesday to revoke the Public Housing Law. The proposal to revoke the law, entitled "streamlining public housing," will be submitted to the housing cabinet soon.

The Public Housing Law was enacted in 1998 to enable public housing tenants to buy their apartments for a considerably reduced price, after renting them for many years. The law was sponsored by former MK Ran Cohen of Meretz.

Despite the Finance Ministry's objection to the legislation, all recent finance ministers have resisted ministry officials' attempts to revoke the law.

Lapid, treasury director general Yael Andorn and budgets division officials supported annulling the law in recent discussions. Andorn has objected to the law since her previous term in the Finance Ministry, as the official in charge of social issues in the budgets division.

Lapid, who heads the housing cabinet, said he would submit the proposal to the housing cabinet at one of its next meetings.

Meretz on Thursday said it plans to hold an emergency assembly in the upcoming days to protest against Lapid's decision. Members from all parties will be invited to attend the gathering, Meretz added, as also activists who are fighting for public housing and Cohen himself.

"Instead of declaring a war against poverty, Lapid wages war against the weakest of society," Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said on Thursday. Lapid will probably be remembered as the man who came to bury the last shred of responsibility the government has toward its citizens, as the Public Housing Law states."

The budgets division officials object to the Public Housing Law arguing that people eligible for subsidized rental housing are not necessarily eligible to buy their apartment after several years for a subsidized price.

In December 1999 the government decided to deposit the money from selling the public apartments in a fund for buying housing for the needy.

The Finance Ministry has consistently tried to sabotage the Public Housing Law by inserting a clause suspending it into the Economic Arrangements Law. Despite this, certain housing ministers who supported the law enabled tenants to buy their apartments for a subsidized price. 

Ofer Vaknin