The Housing Crisis for Ethiopian Olim

“We must not make the mistakes of yesterday – Ethiopian olim should be helped to get permanent housing and integrate in Israeli society. ”
Natan Sharansky

Following the decision of the government on Sunday to give the Jewish Agency responsibility for bringing the remaining Falash Mura to Israel, Natan Sharansky, the organization’s Chairman, called on both the government and all relevant bodies to find solutions so that Ethiopian olim can buy apartments and leave the absorption centers for permanent housing within a reasonable length of time.

“The absorption centers are intended to help the olim in their first steps in Israel and prepare them for life in Israel. We must not make the same mistakes of the past and allow the situation where olim are living there for years. They should be helped to get into permanent housing quickly so that they integrate better into Israel society” said Sharansky.

The Director-General of the Department of Immigration and Absorption [in the Jewish Agency], Eli Cohen, explained that there are currently 4,300 immigrants from Ethiopia living in absorption centers around the country. “If the new immigrants living in the absorption centers won’t be able to purchase apartments and move out to permanent housing, in another year and a half there won’t be room for the additional immigrants from Ethiopia who will be coming.”

Sharansky also called on the government to find permanent housing solutions for some 1,000 immigrants from Ethiopia living today in the centers without any housing solution – even with the generous mortgage conditions offered by the government. These olim include seniors and the poor who aren’t able to buy an apartment and need to live in sheltered housing.

According to Jewish Agency statistics, most of the Ethiopian olim succeeded over the last decade in leaving the absorption centers for permanent housing thanks to the government’s mortgage programs. Even so, because of the Israeli market’s real estate crisis and rising housing prices, olim from Ethiopia find it difficult to buy apartments and are forced to stay in the absorption centers a number of years. In addition, many cities in which housing prices are lower have, in recent years, absorbed a large number of immigrants and no additional low cost housing is available.