(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a flurry of activity, the Housing Cabinet on Monday approved a variety of measures to spur along growth in Israel's housing supply, including a plan focused specifically on the ultra-Orthodox sector.
The ultra-Orthodox plan would see 200,000 new residential units built for the population over the next 20 years, 15,000 of which would be on the market in the next three years.
"The central significance of the decision that we approved in the housing cabinet this morning is the setting of a long-term policy, as a response to the unique needs of the ultra-Orthodox sector, after years that they have suffered from many housing difficulties with no solution on the Horizon," said Housing Minister Yoav Galant.
The plans would include those to make current haredi areas denser and larger, establishing mixed neighborhoods within non-haredi areas, and building new haredi neighborhoods and cities altogether.
The units, however, will be linked in some way to whether the ultra-Orthodox people who want to buy them are working, an effort to boost low labor force participation in the community.
Separately, the cabinet approved a proposal by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to mix commercial, industrial and residential areas. The idea behind the move is that many areas built for commercial and industrial use have much of the necessary infrastructure for residential buildings, and surplus space. Infrastructure is a major bottleneck in the building process, so rezoning could help speed some residential construction. The process would require local authorities to rezone and impose certain conditions. It also took steps to speed up permits.
In addition, the cabinet moved to allow local authorities to levy property tax on empty residential buildings. The tax is intended to spur owners to either rent or sell the buildings as quickly as possible.
Plans to increase foreign workers in the construction field are taking hold. In the last year, the number of foreign construction workers increased 40% to 50,280, with another 8,000 expected to join by the end of September.
42,053 of current foreign construction workers are Palestinian, and 7,000 of those expected to come by September will be as well. The remaining 1,000 will be mostly from Moldova.