For reasons too many and too tedious to go into here, my family and I usually have to move every 1-2 years. We are in that place where the old apartment has already been given up but a new one is yet to be found. It's a very uncomfortable, even painful, place to be.
But, it's not just me. Everyday, I am hearing more and more stories about people unable to find housing in the capitol. People who have lived in the city for years (like me), but feel they are being forced out. This is the other battle for Jerusalem---to keep it a city where its citizens can live and not simply a museum for tourists to visit.
The number one adversary in this battle is---GREED. Let me tell you why. Without any consideration for their Jewish brothers and sisters who live at a much lower standard of living so that Jerusalem will remain accessible to all, those who live in chu"l, but visit two or three times a year, buy apartments and then let them sit empty the remainder of the year. And what's worse than that in my book, are those who take properties and turn them into short-term only rentals designed for short-term visitors like tourists, leaving a dire shortage of long-term places for those who are here permanently. Why do they do it? They can make three or four times the money off it this way. That's the only reason and they don't seem to care whether their fellow Jew down the street will be able to find a home or not.
Now, let me tell you about my special pet peeve, or is that too mild a term for the revulsion I feel for realtors? There was a time when the local real estate market restricted itself to sales only because they felt rentals were beneath them.
There are services that for a small fee will provide you with a daily list of what is available and realtors are bidden to disclose if the ad belongs to them. More and more of late, I am calling in response to ads which have been placed surreptitiously by realtors and they are not even disclosing this important information when I call, but only if I think to ask. Some are disguising the ads to make them look like private individuals have placed them. Just yesterday, I was on Ben Yehuda St and saw a new (homemade) sign with all its "tags" intact. (Tags being cut pieces of paper with the phone number that you can pull off and call about later.) So it looks recent. I call. An appointment is made for the morning. I go. I waste a couple hours since the person is detained and only after four conversations does she say something which leads me to think she is not the owner and when I asked if she is a realtor she confirms it, but only then!
There are a couple of internet sites where owners can advertise their properties for rent. Not only are realtors deceptively advertising in the area reserved for individuals, but they are culling these ads and calling the owners to list with them before people like me, who cannot possibly afford to shell out an additional month's rent to a realtor for his (undeserved) fee, can call them. I saw an ad come up within a hour of its posting. Made an appointment. Saw it that night. Early the next morning, the same place had already been claimed and was being advertised by a realtor.
What kind of business is this?? Certainly not ethical. They've appointed themselves the gatekeepers, putting themselves between the the owner and the renter and basically charging a toll to gain access. To me, it's tantamount to highway robbery. The owner hires the agent and yet they both pass the cost on to the one least able to bear the burden of expense, the one too poor to buy his own home. Whereas, in most cases this is already the second (or more) property owned by the landlord.
In a pinch, in the past, I did break down and pay a realtor to get a home. In America, they might ferry you around in their air-conditioned car for half a day showing you various properties that they arranged to be seen and in the end they handle the paperwork and act as a go-between with the owner. Not in Israel! The Israeli realtor must be the highest paid (non)worker in today's economy. If you call them and ask about properties and nothing is currently available, will they keep your information and call you when something comes up? Absolutely not! You have to keep calling them back and asking. Sometimes, all they do is give you the owner's number and let you take everything from there. So basically, they took a public advertisement, used it to contact the owner and get his permission to charge some hapless person the equivalent of a month's rent to give him the phone number that a few hours earlier was free public information. What a racket!!
Then there is all the new construction which plagues all residents alike, but it's not likely to offer any relief to the young couples and low-wage earners who also have a right to live in Jerusalem. (Historically, there has always been some neighborhood left for the poor of the city.) All of the new construction is labeled "LUXURY." Does that give you any clues? It is designed and marketed to foreigners who do not work for shekel salaries which never increase by even ten agorot!
And what is the government (city or national) doing about any of this??? Just what it always does...N-O-T-H-I-N-G. It's another job for Mashiach.
End of rant. Thank you for listening.