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About Israël

Israël Facts

Out of 394 registered coops, only 93 are now still active, out of which 10 were registered since 1910 onwards. The largest landowner with 90 percent of the land is the government and it can control prices. Groups are forming not only due to the costs of living but also for better community life. What enabled part of it is a change of coop legislation regarding the kibbutz, as an urban kibbutz is defined as a housing cooperative with a social purpose built-in. New communities are forming with a larger cooperative purpose. New families are dependent on rental apartments mainly due to high prices on the housing market and there is a scarcity of social housing, both municipal and government regulated. The interest rate in Israel makes real estate a really good investment.

There is skepticism from the authorities towards the cooperative housing model and on giving it benefits, as it was historically privatized and there are no guarantees that it won’t happen again. Still, there is ongoing and growing interest from members of Parliament. And it is time to separate coop housing from the Kibbutz movement, with a need to form some kind of organization for cooperative housing. They do not want to repeat previous mistakes with a movement from top to bottom. Money is an issue and they need assistance in recruiting big investors.

The lease term is a real challenge, from a financial perspective that means a period of only 49 years, not a long term for an investor and security.

There are financial cooperatives in Israel, most of them are kibbutz-oriented dealing mostly with agriculture. Their members are kibbutzim, that makes them limited by own regulation and laws regarding money laundering that have made them act only towards their members.

The legal framework does not enable land given at a lower price than the highest bidder, making it hard for cooperatives.

Interview with Yifat Solel, Cooperative Leader

Yifat SolelYifat Solel is a lawyer who advocates for free speech, democratic rights, and creating social change. She is also Chairperson for The Cooperatives Alliance, an organisation of cooperatives that achieve civic economic power. Solel is one of the founders and is a board member of OFEK, a financial cooperative that has taken a role in amending the Israeli Law to allow the operation of Credit Unions. She is waiting to receive the first Credit Union license in Israel in over 50 years. Solel has been going through a lengthy and complicated process with regulators. The regulators had no idea what credit unions were and she had to work with them through the process and she is now waiting to receive her final documents for the license.

When it comes to housing, it is more complicated than most co-ops.  It takes a lot of money to start, which is why they take a more favourable approach from the authorities to gather more support. A few years ago, a group of seniors started a co-housing project to plan ahead for their senior years. For roughly a year and a half, they talked to Solel who helped them get organised. They registered as a housing co-op society, which was the first one in 40 years. Solel worked with them for one year through the process of writing bylaws and then another year was spent with the regulators to register the co-op. The group, which includes over 20 seniors, is currently looking for a location to build their coop, which is proving difficult.  One half of the group wants to live in Jerusalem, while the other would rather live anywhere but there. To help them find the perfect location, they hired a firm to work with them. Solel has also been encouraging the older gay community to consider co-ops to help fight loneliness and get them the support they need.

The mayor of Tel Aviv announced recently that the municipality is considering building 120 shared housing units, but it’s not clear what qualifies as “shared housing”. Solel has submitted some suggested selection criteria for a more formal tender process rather then authorities asking for suggestions, which is what they have been doing.  The head of the municipal department of Tel Aviv will be discussing different aspects of co-ops and cooperative housing this coming June.

Solel continues to work hard to make sure cooperatives are getting the recognition they need in Israel. She has been writing about coops for the past 12 years and continues to work with groups interested in starting a co-op. For example, the first cooperative coffee shop just opened in Jerusalem in
March 2019, which is a big breakthrough. With her help, these groups will surely one day succeed.

No. of housing co-operatives: 174

No. of members: 150

Source: Movimento (1995)

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