According to figures released by the Jerusalem Municipality, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are in need of 1,500 house unit per annum to meet their natural growth. However, collectively since 2008, only 500 housing units for Palestinians were awarded building permits. Such is evident of the discriminatory policy at play by the Israeli government to push Palestinian Jerusalemites out of the city due to congestion and lack of space for natural growth. Indeed the planning and zoning policies applied to Palestinians have been designed in a way to create hurdles to building as opposed to facilitating it. The permit application process takes between 2-3 years and is very costly, with fees at times amounting to/exceeding the cost of the construction itself (up to 100,000 USD).
Several taxes are also charged after receiving a permit which must be paid in cash (i.e. property tax). The collective amount ranges between 50-200 thousand NIS, depending upon the size of the construction to land ratio in question. Jewish residents of the city, on the other hand, enjoy governmental subsidies as opposed to debilitating fees and regulations. Moreover, the ratio of construction to land in the case of Palestinians is 50%, while it is 120% for Jewish residents.
This discriminatory, restrictive, and costly building permit regime has compelled many Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to undergo construction without required permits, risking demolition in continuing to live in the city. For in succumbing to the alternative to such construction, that of living outside the bounds of the city, Palestinian residents would in effect fall under a greater risk, that of losing their residency permits (as living in the city is an essential stipulation to maintaining the Jerusalem ID). In turn, all civil, social, and economic rights, the ability to access the city, or travel out of the country with formal papers, would be lost as well.
The land zoned by the Israeli government for development by Palestinians in East Jerusalem is solely 11% (according to OCHA figures), with the closer on goes to the city core (the Old City) the less space for development there is. This has resulted with a shortage of available homes and costly rent for young families to make a life in. Coupled with low income capacity, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are facing a serious housing crisis. As it stands today, 28% of Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem was done without required permits, placing approximately 60,000 Palestinians at risk for displacement from the city (according to OCHA figures). with the launching of JLAC’s right to housing program in East Jerusalem the center served to adopt 91 cases of house demolition in the city, with 33 new cases being adopted in 2014 alone. In so doing, JLAC supported nearly 1,757 in continuing to safely reside in the city and maintain their Jerusalem IDs.
JLAC legal interventions in Jerusalem span to cover the various violations at play, from house demolition to ID confiscation, family reunification and reinstatement of due economic right. In total, JLAC served to provide 1,757 legal services through its Jerusalem branch office. In 2014 as families are often the beneficiaries of these services, JLAC’s services in effect came to alleviate the living conditions (in social and economic regards) of more than 7,320 Jerusalemites. This figure does not include the number of people whose living conditions improved due to JLAC’s public interest interventions. Most notable where JLAC’s achievements made in objecting to the performance of the municipality towards Kufr Aqab (in terms of waste collection) and obtaining an order to freeze the decision on land confiscation (involving the National Park Plan in the neighborhoods of Tur and Issawiya). Outreach efforts were also continued during the year, with the Center providing awareness sessions in nine different neighborhoods of the city of Jerusalem.