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Oct 20, 2010

Yated: unusual solution proposed for the housing crisis

In this week's Yated Neeman free edition there was an interesting "Letter to the Editor" or post to the comment board page (I'm not sure what that page is called, and the letters are not really letters to the editor in the normal sense of what most papers print).

The comment was suggesting a new solution to the housing crisis (specifically in the haredi sector). The solution offered was that the government should be more forthcoming and flexible to homeowners. He wrote that the government should approve and encourage homeowners to "split" their apartments and be able to sell off parts of their homes and retain ownership on part of the house. This would require changing the land registration of homes, and the government is not flexible enough in allowing such changes.

The writer goes on to explain, using his personal situation as an example. He says that he and his wife are a bit older and their children are all married and have moved out of their home. Their 4 room apartment (3 bedrooms) is really too large for their needs, as they only use 1 of the bedrooms.

If, he writes, they could find a way to split their apartment and keep half for themselves and sell off half to a young couple, that would solve the housing crisis, as it would [almost] immediately create thousands of additional small apartments available on the market. Relisting the apartments would be necessary, as would some construction to actually make the physical split, but with the government's cooperation and encouragement it could be done quickly and efficiently - far quicker than building new cities and neighborhoods.

He also writes that some will say if your apartment is too large just sell it and buy something smaller. Why create such an issue? He answers that by saying that they don't want to move. Moving is expensive and difficult. They are older and like their friends and neighbors, while moving would make them have to settle into a new area and make new friends and that is not something older people, themselves for example, are inclined to do.

Interesting idea. Is relisting your apartment, along with weeks and maybe months of construction not too difficult to deal with? Only selling is difficult? Will they not need to hire architects and engineers to design the split of the apartment and redesign the new apartment, to move water, gas and electrical lines? That will not be expensive? Only moving is expensive?

Do they not want to have bedrooms available for when the kids and grandkids come to visit? Obviously this is their choice, and if they don't have the luxury of holding on to the extra bedrooms for that purpose, they would see selling as a solution - but why do they assume their experience and situation is what all other people would choose to do? Maybe other people like to have an extra bedroom to host guests or to have the kids come over?

Why not rent the extra bedrooms to a young couple as borders and they would share the kitchen? I am sure it would not be easy, but plenty of people have borders living over and it works.

The idea of splitting apartments instead of, or maybe in addition to, seems silly to look to as a solution to the housing crisis. Perhaps the government can be more flexible in such things to help people who want or need to split their apartments in order to raise some money or to get rid of the burden of the upkeep of the parts of the house they don't really use, but I don't see it as a large scale solution for the housing crisis.


  1. Anybody can take boarders. However splitting your apartment is practically far more complicated. It may be possible to split a house and create a flatlet, but fixed apartment buildings would not lend themselves to splitting the units. The problems would be sanitation, electricity and other utilities and creating overcrowding and all kinds of ways to create new entrances, provide privacy etc. Nice idea but totally impractical and socially undesirable.

  2. Complaints about insufficient infrastructure; roads, shuls, mikvaos, and parking to begin in 3... 2... 1...

  3. Solving the housing crisis isn't so simple. First it's young couples getting married who need a place to live. But then they grow into often significantly-sized families. A two bedroom apartment won't help them anymore.

    Renovating such an apartment for long term rental would make more sense than selling it off.

    Young couples with increasing future savings/earning potential would also help the situation - then it might become acceptable to rent until the couple themselves could afford to buy.

  4. thats not unusual, its stupid. and further, it only lowers the practically non-existent respect i already had to the yated to actually suggest this, and print in a fashion that the govt should support people splitting their apartments to help solve the housing crisis. electricity, water, noise levels, privacy...
    stupid letter.

  5. I think you are forgetting that 20 years ago, many people combined two or more appartments to create giant appartments for them and their kids.

    Now, those appartments that were designed to be 3 homes, don't have so many people living in them and it would make sense to re-split them up into 3 homes again. That is what they were designed for.

    Also, if you are splitting your home, then odds are the people moving in would be paying for the split.. not the old couple who have paid off the mortgage already. That is much easier than moving.

  6. well, this guys example was himself in a 4 room apartment. that is not 2 apartments combined. The idea might be easier for people who combined apartments, but it intends to be for those who didnt as well.

    at the end of the day, the young couple will be paying for the construction, as part of the price of the house. but the older couple sellign is going to have to lay it all out. nobody is going to buy half an apartment and then deal with the construction on their own. the old couple will have to prepare the apartment and then sell. thats how I see it

  7. "Also, if you are splitting your home, then odds are the people moving in would be paying for the split.. "

    Huh? Why would a young couple pay to split some old person's 4 room apt. when they could spend the money on a down payment on a new 4 or 5 room apt of their own. What the heck would a young couple do with a two room apt. anyway. On top of the fact that most 4 room apts. have small bedrooms that would be nearly impossible to convert one of them into a living room/dining room/ kitchen.

    Exceedingly dumb letter. Moving can cost as little as 3500 shekel. Tricky, nearly impossible renovation- many 10's of thousands of shekels.


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