|Netanyahu cabinet meeting 390.(Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem)|
PM: Gov't taking steps to decrease housing prices
By NADAV SHEMER
Gov't passes Trajtenberg C'tee recommendations on housing, initiating plan to build 187,000 units in next 5 years.
The cabinet on Sunday unanimously passed an amended version of the Trajtenberg
Report’s housing recommendations, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
would lower prices and increase the availability of apartments.
means the government has now approved all four chapters from the report – which
the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change issued in response to last
summer’s protests over the cost of living. The other three chapters dealt with
taxation, competition and social services.
Subject to Knesset approval,
the Israel Lands Authority will market 187,000 new apartments throughout the
country over the next five years. Sixty percent will be located in the
high-demand areas of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the central region; 40,000 will be
designated for affordable housing.
“The more apartments there are, the
greater will be the pressure to lower apartment prices,” Netanyahu said at the
start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“This is what the cabinet was
dealing with even before this report was presented and adopted, and continues to
do so after it.”
Opposition MKs including Nahman Shai (Kadima) slammed
the prime minister for removing “earning power” from the housing criteria in
order to win coalition partner Israel Beiteinu’s support. “Without this
criterion, the government turns the Trajtenberg Report into a laughing stock,”
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson said the approval of the report would not lower the price
of buying or renting an apartment for many years, if at all.
“It will be
like the rest of the report, which has not lowered the cost of living in
Israel,” Hasson said. “Since the socioeconomic protests, the public has not felt
any positive change in the government’s policies. Things have only gotten worse.
Netanyahu is trying to trick the public into thinking things will be cheaper
here. I don’t buy it and the public definitely won’t.”
Hayehudi chairman Daniel Herschkowitz attacked Shas and Israel Beiteinu for
reaching compromises that would not require people to work for a living to be
eligible for housing benefits.
“They care only about their
constituencies, not whether the working public will be able to afford an
apartment,” he said.
Among the other reforms approved on Sunday, maximum
assistance for renters who are eligible for public housing will rise from NIS
1,750 to NIS 3,000 per month – at a cost to the state of NIS 800 million over
The property tax (arnona) ceiling for apartments that stand
empty for more than half a year will be doubled, with the aim of releasing more
than 15,000 apartments into the housing market each year.
deemed unfit for habitation will be eligible for a tax-exempt status for nine
months, after which the doubled property tax will be levied.
Levies of up
to 10% of the price of the apartments will be imposed on contractors who win
tenders but do not complete construction projects within two years of receipt of
the building permit.
In addition, the government approved an NIS 1.5
billion housing package for new immigrants. The package includes monthly rental
assistance of up to NIS 1,250 per family, monthly rental assistance of about NIS
3,000 for wheelchair-bound new immigrants, and increased housing assistance for
New-immigrant status will be recognized for 15 years
from date of aliya, an increase from the current 10 years.
Association of Contractors and Builders criticized the reforms in a letter to
cabinet ministers on Friday, claiming they would cause home prices to rise 10%.
The association said the reforms would impose a heavy cost on developers who own
land on which construction has not yet begun – in contrast to the goal of
speeding up construction and reducing prices.
“We are dealing with a
credit crunch in real estate and small businesses,” the letter
“Levying a new tax will increase the number of loans that
contractors must take to finance construction, worsening the credit crunch and
resulting in a halt in housing starts.”
An amended version of the
Trajtenberg Report’s chapter on taxation came into effect on January 1,
increasing the rate of income tax for high- and middle-income earners, granting
tax credits to fathers of children under three years old, and granting a second
tax credit to mothers of children under 18.
Gil Hoffman contributed to