C’tee: Trajtenberg recommendations on housing unhelpful

Knesset Economics C’tee members from coalition and opposition agree report adds little new on issue.

December 14, 2011 05:22
2 minute read.
Carmel Shama

Shama 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A lack of affordable housing was the topic that spurred this summer’s tent protests, yet the recommendations by the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change on the matter “remain nothing more than ink on paper,” Knesset Economics Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) said on Tuesday, reflecting the opinions of committee members in both the opposition and the coalition.

The committee gathered to discuss a variety of housing-related topics, including drafting a bill based on the housing chapter of the Trajtenberg Report.

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According to Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, the report included plans that had already been implemented. For example, most years 45,000 homes are built in Israel, but 77,000 are in the planning stages for next year, “as a result of hard work, not of Trajtenberg,” he said.

Shama-Hacohen pointed out that housing prices have gone down since the protest, due to steps taken by the Finance and Housing Ministries as well as the Bank of Israel, but said that it is not enough.

Attias also called for the government to approve his proposal to require five percent of all public housing to be dedicated to the poorest families, saying that the government can afford it, but the funds need to be allocated.

“This is social justice – if we don’t do this, it’s social injustice,” he said.

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov attended the meeting, saying that he represents Israel Beiteinu on the housing crisis.

He called for any new policies on public housing to give priority to families in which both parents work.

Prof. Raffi Melnick, a member of the Trajtenberg Committee, pointed out that the recommendations on housing focused on young, working couples.

“There is a worrisome phenomenon in which the rate of participation in the workforce is low, and the situation is only getting worse,” Melnick said.

“We thought we’d encourage the population to work.”

MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) accused Meseznikov of racism against haredim and Arabs, which Meseznikov denied, saying that he’s faced discrimination as an immigrant from Russia.

MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) also slammed Meseznikov, saying that he has proposed dozens of bills on public housing, which Israel Beiteinu rejected, because they are “the most capitalist and the most privatizing party in the state.”

Attias explained that giving priority to working couples would disqualify 49 percent of those under the poverty line, in which only one parent works, saying that the initiative would “shoot at” the poorest cases.

No votes took place during the meeting, and Shama-Hacohen said the topic requires further discussion.

“Twenty MKs and two ministers participated in this meeting, and this just shows the importance of the matter,” the committee chairman said.

“The numbers are clear, and the government can’t ignore them. We can’t just take new apartments out of our pockets, but we are putting pressure on the government.”

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