Housing crisis

Israel braces for housing crisis amid wave of Ukrainian immigration

The Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption has welcomed more than 4,110 new immigrants since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. At least 2,460 of them are Ukrainians and the rest are Russians.

Another 340 Olim Hadashim from Ukraine are expected to land in the next 24 hours on two rescue flights from Moldova. Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said the number of new arrivals since the start of the war is likely to top 7,000 by the end of this week.

Olim Hadashim from Ukraine arriving at Ben Gurion Airport

(צילום: שירה קרישר, דוברות והסברה משרד העלייה והקליטה)

From now on, the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption is transferring all those not residing with Israeli family members to a hotel. Both cases are obviously not long-term sustainable solutions.

The ministry is working with the Ministry of Construction and Housing to find a solution for all new Olim.

The government has decided to create a designated team to take care of immediate housing and to allocate around 1,200 public buildings for this purpose. However, the Ministry of Construction and Housing has so far only approved funding for 400 apartments.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told a government meeting earlier that Israel is preparing to absorb immigrants eligible for the Law of Return, and that the state is obliged to provide them with: an integration program, assistance to housing, an education and, above all, a great embrace.

“At the same time, as a nation and a society, we will help Ukrainian citizens who are temporarily residing here, for several weeks or even months, until the situation calms down. I see that there are many families of reception is very important.

The new government plan, initiated by the ministries of Aliyah and Absorption, Construction and Finance, includes the designation of 1,269 apartments in public buildings as housing solutions for 7,000 Olim. The buildings include hostels and student dormitories, most of which need to undergo renovations to suit families.

The plan is for the apartments to be available within a month, and for now the immigrants are waiting in hotel rooms funded by the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption.

Despite the urgent call for housing, the Ministry of Finance has only approved 400 apartments to be renovated with public funds. However, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman stressed that the budget will not be a problem to absorb immigrants as it will be rationed gradually.

Additionally, the government will appoint a team to find housing solutions, led by Bennett’s office manager Yair Pines, Department of Construction and Housing chief executive Aviad Friedman and Department of Housing chief executive. Aliyah and Integration, Ronen Cohen.

At this rate of Aliyah, it seems that Israel will have no choice but to subsidize the rent of new immigrants.

Tamano-Shata insists that the state must work together to find creative housing solutions for the Olim who have escaped the war. “Caravans are the last resort, I want to use all means first, public housing for adults and families and accessible housing that immigrants can buy with a large state subsidy.”

She added that “arguably the biggest challenge in absorbing immigrants is finding permanent housing, while there is an ongoing housing crisis in Israel.”

More so, Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin insists that the subsidies also don’t get in the way of Israelis waiting for housing solutions.

At the same time, the government is working to provide newcomers with the necessary means outside of housing such as: clothing, equipment, language learning opportunities, education, social work, access to health care and employment.