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Israeli cities offered money for renovating buildings to house Ukrainian migrants

Housing Ministry arranges funding packages to cover renovation costs on existing older properties, as it seeks solutions for thousands arriving from Eastern Europe

New immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
New immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel is offering cities and regional councils grant money to upgrade housing projects for immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, and other countries in the region, the Housing and Construction Ministry announced.

Some 10,000 new immigrants have arrived in Israel in recent weeks, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

More than two-thirds of the immigrants are coming from Ukraine, which has seen more than 4 million people flee its borders since the start of the Russian onslaught on February 24, according the United Nations.

The vast majority of the other immigrants come from Russia and Belarus, and the Jewish Agency expects many thousands more.

Authorities applying for these grants are being asked to identify the buildings they own that can be quickly converted into suitable housing for the immigrants, some of whom are being housed in hotels or the homes of friends, family, or charitable strangers, until they can find a permanent solution.

Priority for the grants will be given to projects giving shelter to larger numbers of immigrants for less money, and those that can be ready as quickly as possible.

To participate, local councils need to identify at least five suitable buildings. Alerted in late March by the ministry, they were given until April 5 to submit plans.

A mother and child walk across the street in front of a public housing building in Ofakim on November 8, 2010. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Among the stipulations: authorities developing the projects need to commit to housing the immigrants for at least two years, and to capping monthly rental rates at either NIS 15 per square meter ($0.43 per square foot) or NIS 1,000 ($312) for the entire unit, whichever is lower.

Despite high poverty rates, Israel has little public housing stock, and eligible families can wait years for apartments to become available. Critics also say much of the housing is outdated and in dire need of repair.

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