Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid presented his party’s housing program Tuesday, pledging to build 150,000 apartments in 10 cities to be made available for long-term rent at two-thirds of today’s prices.
“Right now, if you are a young person who served in the army, studied at university and has just entered the work force...then I have bad news for you,” Lapid said at the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce’s Economix conference in Tel Aviv. “Unless you have a rich uncle to bequeath you a lot of money, then you won’t have an apartment...and if we don’t change the rules of the game, then you can forget about it altogether.”
The average young professional has barely begun to start working before he becomes “a slave,” Lapid said, pointing out that Israelis must spend 138 average monthly wages to purchase an apartment in present conditions, whereas the average English person spends 71 wages on an apartment and the average Swede spends just 30.
Under his plan, residential towers will be constructed on hundreds of hectares held by the Israel Lands Administration in the following cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Holon, Kfar Saba, Safed, Netanya, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The ILA will remain in control of the land, just as it controls the land on which Road 6 (Trans-Israel Highway) is located.
These projects will not cost the government a penny, Lapid said, explaining that funding will come from pension funds and other financial institutions that have billions of shekels to invest and currently waste it on Las Vegas casinos or on all sorts of “corrupt” projects in eastern Europe. He claimed his plan would guarantee these institutions a safe return for 30 years, and said many of them expressed support for the idea when contacted by Yesh Atid.
At least three-quarters of the apartments will be reserved for young professionals who work as teachers, social workers, nurses, police, IDF officers or in other professions which serve the state. The purpose of this, according to Lapid, is to enable them to live close to where they work and in the communities that they serve.
Calling the plan an instigator for culture change, Lapid said it would provide solutions on two fronts: it would free up enough apartments to return housing prices to the levels they were at in 2007, and would enable the state to allocate 25% of apartments to a segment of the population which it has an interest in protecting.
Lapid rebuked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for allowing Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias to remove wage-earning capacity from the criteria for eligibility in the Trajtenberg Committee’s affordable housing plan. He called Attias’ decision to make length of marriage the main criterion “a scandalous fraud,” and said it only served to demonstrate that the minister and his Shas colleagues were in power for the purpose of granting favors to their Haredi constituency.
“Where else in the world does the state turn to somebody - who serves in the military, studies, works, has a partner who works, and does their best to be an effective citizen – and deprives them of the possibility of buying their first apartment, instead transferring that right to those who do not serve, do not work, and who do not become productive, tax-paying citizens,” he said.
The government’s solution of telling people to purchase apartments in periphery towns is also unjust, Lapid argued, saying that it cannot expect people to leave the big cities if it does not provide the necessary infrastructure such as education and public transport.
Lapid concluded by saying his party would not join a coalition that does not agree to the housing plan, and urged the government to begin implementing the program immediately. He said, “You are politicians, why wait for the elections and let us take all the credit for giving an entire generation somewhere to live. Steal our idea. Work can begin tomorrow.”