(photo credit: REUTERS)
Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) said on Monday that Israel’s housing crisis was on the brink of escalating, and the country would need to build a million new units within 20 years.
“We are on the verge of a housing crisis,” Galant told the Knesset Finance Committee, spitting out an alarming list of statistics to support his claim.
Housing prices have doubled in the past eight years, he said, the result of a 100,000 unit shortage. The fact that half of Israel’s population is concentrated in the central stretch of land between Ashdod and Hadera has further complicated matters.
Given population projections for the next 20 years, he said, Israel would need another 200,000 units for the ultra-Orthodox, 200,000 for Israeli Arabs, and 600,000 for the rest of Israel’s population.
Galant said that housing starts have grown from roughly 40,000 to between 50,000-60,000 under the new government.
But the minister did not have an easy reception at the committee, as members of the opposition fumed at the government’s inability to change the established trend, even four years after Israelis took the streets by the thousands to protest housing costs.
“We are deep, deep into the crisis,” Zionist Union MK Manuel Trajtenberg responded to Galant’s warning. In order to change the picture, he said, Israel needed to change the market’s expectations that prices would continue to rise, and offer long-term, affordable housing solutions in the interim.
Even coalition members had strong words on the issue.
“The response to the housing crisis has been inadequate, and there is an interest in not lowering prices. We’ve been talking about this problem for 10 years already and not a thing has been done,” said Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, also of Kulanu, promised to prevent a crisis from coming about.
Speaking to the housing cabinet, Kahlon noted that fast-track umbrella plans had been signed with numerous municipalities, with the largest announcement, for Ashkelon, around the corner.
Several municipalities which were declared priority zones Monday – Ramat Gan, Kiryat Ata, Beer Yaakov, Katzrin, Ofakim and Shefa Amr – would see a combined 28,800 new units, he said.
Another 130,000 were being fast-tracked in largescale projects approved by a separate program, known as the Vatmal.