Concerned tenants in Haifa are protesting local urban renewal plans threatening the rights of some of the most vulnerable public housing residents. In the urban renewal process known as “vacate and build” (pinui/binui), residents stay in temporary housing while their old homes are demolished and replaced with modern facilities which the residents then return to. This is a common plan seen in numerous neighborhoods throughout Israel.
Just last month, during the most recent Knesset Public Housing Day, a group of tenants from Haifa’s Neve David neighborhood, slated to undergo the process, raised fears they would not be able to return to their apartments following the rebuilding due to increased maintenance fees.
Only now, a few weeks before the planned demolitions will begin, has the contract been revealed to the public. Alarmingly it shows that all the new apartments will be 83 square meters large. This means that the tenants will not be protected by a clause in the law designed to protect residents from increased maintenance rates upon return to the homes, as only homes up to 75 square meters qualify for this stipulation. If 83 square meters is the minimum apartment size possible, then the law must be amended to reflect this reality in order to protect the rights of vulnerable public housing residents.
Desperate from their fears of losing their homes and the networks of support they have built in their communities, the tenants – mostly elderly and immigrants – demonstrated at the site of the new project.
According to Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, an Israeli human rights organization formed in 1999 by a group of professional planners and architects, urban renewal in Israel is practically synonymous with urban densification. However very few of the urban densification projects initiated by the far-right government ever come to fruition because they are so fundamentally flawed. The government continues to invest in drafting these proposals, which are ineffectual, all the while the demand for housing continues to grow and prices continue to rise. “Socially-economically weaker communities are pushed out to peripheral urban areas, worsening the profound decline in already weakened urban centers of the country.”
Bimkom has conducted a comprehensive research report into various urban renewal strategies in Israel and abroad, including recommendations for workable, equitable solutions.