Affordable Housing: Developing Policy, Awareness and Pilot Projects


Housing affordability, or the lack of it, was the issue that sparked the mass social protests of Summer 2011, with tent camps in tens of cities and hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Families are considered to be in ‘housing distress’ in developed countries when expenses for housing consume more than about a third of their income, and in ‘severe housing distress’ when housing costs rise above half of income. Israel still doesn’t have numbers on  the proportion of families who are in housing distress, or any demographic analyses of who these families are, where they live, and what basic needs they are foregoing in order to keep a decent roof over their heads. But, with housing costs rising far above the increases in wages, middle-class families and fully employed working people are strongly feeling the crunch, alongside those whose social benefits and housing allowances have been reduced dramatically, by as much as half, over the past decade. Very high housing costs have severe social impacts, including contributing to increased segregation, concentration of poverty, and reduced social mobility.

This project works to develop new policies to promote affordable housing and social mixed neighborhoods in Israel. We draw on the experiences of other developed countries in creating new tools of regulatory planning and financial innovations, and seek to adapt and transmit these policies for use in Israel. Israeli housing policy used many similar instruments in the early years of the State.

Today, however, national government policy alone is not sufficient: government policies require cooperation by local authorities, the private sector and civil society. In 2011, we worked closely with all these sectors, using the ‘open-window’ of the social protests to strengthen understanding of the topic, and to advance legislation and policies. A particularly effective avenue came with the opportunity to chair the team of experts advising the social protest on issues of housing, transport and planning.

The project works to train key actors in  public sector, civil society,  and the private sector. Activities from 01/2011- 12/2011 included:


•           Publications and position papers: The major publication was  the “Spatial Policy for Social Justice’ report presented to the social protest and to the government, as an alternative to the government-sponsored Trachtenberg report. The report is the first attempt to show how spatial planning in Israel - including housing, transport and land-use policies -- can be reformed to enhance social justice. The  report  was written jointly by a team of over fifty academics from universities across the country, and we were able to devote ourselves full-time to writing, editing, and chairing the expert team.  We also worked closely  with various organizations who produced position papers on affordable housing, including: the Union of Local Authorities in Israel; the National Union of Israeli Students; the Israel Planner’s Association; and the Coalition for Affordable Housing.

•           Training and workshops: We trained  about forty lecturers and facilitators who delivered over a hundred lectures at tent camps throughout the summer. Training sessions were sponsored by the Israel Planners Association and by the Coalition for Affordable Housing. We worked closely with the Coalition for Affordable Housing to prepare accessible public materials, distributed in the tens of thousands at the tent camps. We are continuing to work closely with the social protest leaders in preparing  their campaign on national reform for sociable housing policies.

•           Presentations and briefings: We presented topic briefings on affordable housing to the National Planning and Building Committee, the Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Interior district planners (together with Prof. Rachelle Alterman and Dr. Chaim Fialkoff); addressed sessions of the Knesset Committee on Interior and Environment, and the Knesset Committee on Economics; and gave lectures at public conferences and in academic settings including at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Technion, Bezalel, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Van Leer, the Green Building Council, Merhav - Movement for Israeli Urbanism, the Heschel Center for Leadership on Sustainability, Planner’s Association and the Geographer’s Association and SICUII.

•           Media: The national spotlight on housing brought many opportunities for media coverage. Our work was cited in numerous newspaper articles, and we published op-ed pieces in the Marker (2)[1], Calcalist (2)[2] and the Jerusalem Post[3] and spoke  frequently on radio and on television. Many of these, along with other articles, can be found at the Coalition for Affordable Housing.

Project Outcomes: Outcomes are, of course, a result of the work of many individuals and institutions. Below we survey the new initiatives in  housing policy on which our work had direct bearing: 

•           Draft legislation on affordable housing: at the end of 2011, the Government submitted draft legislation on affordable housing to the Knesset Committee on Interior and Environment, to be included in the national planning reform legislation. The proposed legislation provided a legal definition of affordable housing, authorized municipalities to zone land for affordable rental housing, and set out a mechanism for monitoring and managing affordable housing units. Strikingly, the proposed definition did not explicitly authorize intervention to reduce the cost of housing, nor did it require an income test for eligibility. Following public outcry and at the insistence of MKs, the Prime Minister’s Office is now reviewing the proposed legislation.

•           Policy on new public housing: The Minister of Housing is calling for a new policy to include 5% public housing in all new build on Israel Lands Authority plots: this would constitute a most significant advance in legislation, assuming allocation of funding.

•           Regulations: the Ministry of Interior has released new policies for including smaller homes in all new build, and for permitting sub-divisions of homes subject to municipal planning permission, following recommendations from our 2010 research with Prof. Rachelle Alterman of the Technion.

•           Pilot Projects: Municipalities and community groups throughout the country are advancing pilot projects that aim to make housing more affordable to local residents, and typically include a mix of both market-rate and sub-market rate homes. We worked closely with several of these projects, primarily in the Haifa and Tel Aviv areas, and helped to secure funding for a research project mapping the new initiatives: their characteristics, obstacles, and needs for assistance. The mapping project is designed as a gateway to securing long-term funding for technical assistance to pilot projects, particularly those with a strong community involvement and a commitment to social mix.


[1] TheMarker – 15.7.11:"The social role of the ministry of housing and construction"

TheMarker- 22.7.11:"The tent protest as a new social concept"

[2] Calcalist – 25.8.11:"Everybody wants quality life like in Tel-Aviv"

Calcalist – 30.1.12:"Is a 2 room's apartment at a price of 2 million shekels considered 'affordable housing?' "

[3]The Jerusalem Post – 27.7.11: " Analysis: Winds of change?"


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