Video: Israel Builds—The Push for Affordable Housing in Israel

The lack of affordable housing is one of Israel’s most pressing domestic issues, documented most recently in the State Comptroller’s Report on the Housing Crisis. Because there is no multi-family rental market in Israel, almost all rental apartments are owned by individuals -- an unregulated market where neither landlords nor tenants have legal protection. Israelis who do have means are investing in more than one apartment, as rental income is only taxed above 5080 NIS. Since it can take upwards of 13 years for the planning process and permits needed to construct a new building, it is no surprise that rents saw a 50% increase (30% increase in real terms) from 2008 to 2013. Demand for housing is soaring while supply is thwarted.

In most Western countries, including the United States, there are legal frameworks that support stable rental markets, balancing the needs of tenants with those of owners. In Israel, the government, in effect, removed itself from the housing market in 1977 when the country began to move from a socialist to neo-liberal economy, resulting in the current crisis. Lack of affordable housing is causing new immigrants, young couples, students, and single-parent families to despair of their future--when they are Israel’s future.

A flourishing affordable housing market can also be the lever for community revitalization in underdeveloped Israeli cities that are close to the country’s center of employment.

Since 2008, the Revson Foundation has been deeply engaged in the challenges associated with affordable housing in Israel. In Israel’s new government, affordable housing—especially rental housing—is likely to be a top item on the agenda.

In this webinar, Julie Sandorf, Revson’s president, joined us for a debriefing on affordable housing in Israel, its challenges and opportunities, as well as what models and tools can be adapted from decades of successful American experience in New York, Boston, St. Louis, and other urban settings. Also on the call was Dr. Emily Silverman, founder of the Urban Clinic at Hebrew University, an an academic body that provides state of the art knowledge about what works in housing, urban regeneration, and community planning, to ensure that the current and next generation of urban practitioners are equipped with effective tools and skills.

About the presenters:
Julie Sandorf has served as president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation since January 2008. Before joining Revson, she was a co-founder and executive director of Nextbook, a national organization dedicated to the creation and promotion of Jewish literature, culture, and the arts. From 1991 through 1999, she was president of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), an organization she founded that worked to deliver permanent solutions to chronic homelessness in partnership with philanthropic foundations, nonprofit organizations, and government at the local, state, and national levels.

Previously, she was a program director at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), where she forged a groundbreaking public-private partnership to revitalize distressed neighborhoods throughout New York City. She currently serves as an adviser to the Oak Foundation, is chairperson of the board of directors of the Center for Urban Community Services, and is a member of the board of directors of the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing.

Dr. Emily Silverman is a faculty member at the Hebrew University where she founded and leads the Urban Clinic, brokering between academic and professional knowledge and practice for more just and prosperous cities in Israel. Emily teaches graduate level courses on housing policy and urban regeneration, social aspects of planning, strategic planning and community development.

Recent public policy work includes co-chairing the Housing Task Force of the governmental ‘War on Poverty’ commission; leading a multi-sector round-table to develop legislation and policies for affordable housing with the Joint Distribution Committee and the Ministry of Housing; capacity building with the Ministry of Welfare to take a more active role in spatial planning; action-research on social aspects of urban regeneration with municipal and district planners; and leading the Israeli delegation to UN Habitat World Urban Forum VII in Medellin, Colombia, and VI in Naples, Italy. Emily led the research team that devised the now-approved strategy for affordable housing in Tel Aviv (2009), headed the Round Table on Solutions for Affordable Housing for the Arab community of Jaffa with local Arab leadership and local and national officials (2010), and served as co-chair of the Advisory Committee to the Social Protest on Housing, Transport, Planning and Land-use (2011).

Prior to Hebrew University, Emily worked for five years as a senior research fellow at the Center for Urban and Regional Studies and as director of the Community Planning Lab at the Technion.