(photo credit: REUTERS)
The State Comptroller’s Report on Tuesday blasted the Construction Ministry for failing to provide public housing to the eligible population and the exorbitant wait times people have had to endure.
Only 39 percent of those eligible for public housing got their homes within a year, while 32% had to wait over 3 years. An unfortunate 10% didn’t have their housing after seven years of waiting, and few had waited as long as 15 years.
In light of the inflated housing market, the findings struck a particular nerve. The Construction Ministry agreed that there was a shortage in housing stock, but said that the fault was “not in the ministry’s work plan, but the budgetary resources” needed to finance new units.
The state would need to allocate NIS 35 billion to build enough units to help the 30,000 eligible households, it said. This figure includes those eligible through the Immigration and Absorption Ministry.
The comptroller noted that in 2013 just 2,570 were eligible via the Construction Ministry, while the remaining 27,000 were from the absorption side of things.
MK Dov Henin from the Joint (Arab) List’s Hadash faction said the report was not surprising, and called for a systematic overhaul to the public housing market.
“The situation must change immediately by significantly increasing the number of apartments in public housing. Adding a few hundred lone units each year will not work when the shortage is so many thousands of apartments,” he said.
Another section of the report noted that the Economy Ministry was failing to deal with labor violations – particularly against low-wage workers – in a timely fashion, and failing to sniff out other violations on its own. Some 30% of the complaints took over a year to address, according to the report.
Despite two previous reports looking at the issue, the Economy Ministry had failed to update its methods, including upgrading computers and enhancing its scheme for identifying unreported labor violations. Some communities, the report noted, suffered more from the lack of enforcements, such as Israeli Arabs who were less likely to file complaints.
The report also found that many public bodies gave out benefits to their employees without properly reporting and recording them, meaning the benefits often went untaxed.
Ninety-five public bodies that were surveyed - 22% of the organizations that participated in the report - gave out in 2013 127 different benefits to their employees, out of which 51% were not recorded as wages, in violation of tax laws.
Three health funds gave personnel a collective NIS 88 million in benefits in 2013, while 29 academic institutions gave NIS 55m. worth of tuition benefits to employees and their families. Local government administration gave a variety of freebies, such as Ramat Gan Municipality doling out 650 tickets to sports games.
Trans-Israel Highway workers got exemptions from tolls, Israel Railways families got free train tickets, while the Israel Electric Corporation gave discounts for connecting employees’ homes to the grid, not to mention the free electricity of up to 18,000 kWh a year for employees and retirees.
While the benefits were not illegal, the fact that they were not recorded or taxed means extra expense to the public.