The main project pertaining to housing rights that the Clinic is engaged in this year (2017) is in Haifa, a three year project supported by the European Union. The project is at its middle, after 18 months. The project aims to promote the housing rights of Arab residents in Haifa, by providing legal aid in specific cases, and also by giving them tools that can empower them and allow them to be involved in planning processes and realizing their interests and rights.
In pursuing these aims, the Clinic partnered with the Society for Distributive Justice and the Organization for Social Development in Haifa. The first year focused on establishing the contact with the community, creating a group of activists and training them. A stable group of twelve activists has been established and the Clinic created and performed a ten-meeting course with this group imparting them with skills and knowledge required to be able to advocate on behalf of their community with government agencies in charge of planning, infrastructure and public housing. This group of activists is the link between the Clinic and the residents, referring individuals to receive legal aid. The group also constitutes a local group of leaders with which the clinic works toward creating policy change, participating in planning decision making, and promoting the housing rights of the community.
Individual Legal Aid
The Clinic offers legal individual legal aid to individuals in Haifa and Acre in housing issues such as eligibility to public housing, settling of debts to public housing companies, aided rent, renovation of public housing; apartment purchase information. The Clinic handles about 15-20 cases annually in housing.
Promoting Policy and Legislative change
Participation in planning: The clinic approached the municipality of Haifa to ensure that Arab residents are given information regarding planning and can participate and ensure their rights in planning.
The Clinic filed two requests according to the Freedom of Information Act. The first, requiring information concerning the budgets allocated to planning and housing in Haifa. The second was directed both to the city of Haifa and the Ministry of Housing and Construction requiring information concerning a number of issues crucial for ensuring housing rights in the Arab neighborhoods in Haifa: Number of vacant public houses; planning for further public housing; shares of public housing sold to residents; information concerning protected tenants; information concerning absentee landlord properties in Haifa; and marketing houses belonging to the development agency. The information that will be learned will be used to engage in further legal action – writing letters to decision makers, policy papers, drafting legislation or legal petitions.
Limiting cost of renovations in public housing (continued from the previous year): in 2016 the Clinic dealt with the special case of renovating houses in old Acre due to the requirements of the Antiquities Law. Following the Clinic's intervention, tenants that were unable to afford renovations have their debts forgiven and no longer face the threat of eviction. This year the Clinic drafted a bill aimed at limiting the sums that tenants of public housing in general are charged for renovating their homes.
2. Rights of People with Disabilities
Individual Legal Aid