MKs on Right, Left pan affordable housing bill

According to bill’s current text, some homes will have prices 20% below market value, while most will be determined by supply and demand.

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January 31, 2012 15:53
3 minute read.
Tel Aviv apartment

Tel Aviv apartment 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Opposition and coalition MKs slammed affordable housing legislation by Knesset Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) in a Tuesday meeting.

Cohen inserted a chapter on affordable housing to the reforms in the Planning and Construction Bill, which have been ongoing for nearly two years, and told the government that he would not bring the revised bill to a vote if the new chapter is not included.

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“There is a failure in the housing market,” Cohen said in a committee room packed with activists and MKs. “We cannot say the market will take care of itself – the government must get involved.”

According to the Shas MK, he and the committee’s legal staff proposed many ideas to Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, about half of which were rejected. The current version of the affordable housing chapter states that municipal planning must include solutions for affordable housing, and provides assurances that the percentage of affordable homes in the market will remain the same.

In addition, the bill seeks to prevent the creation of slums by spreading affordable housing throughout the country and in different population groups.

Opposition MKs in the meeting, however, took issue with the fact that there are not clear guidelines for the pricing of affordable housing.

Cohen explained that he cannot give exact prices, because there are no government commitments on the matter, but he hopes that continued negotiations will change the situation.



According to the bill’s current text, some homes will have prices 20 percent below the market value, while most prices will be determined by supply and demand in the market.

“Maybe we should let the market run the state? Maybe it will do a better job than the current government,” MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) said.

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) said that the new plan will not make homes more affordable, and that there needs to be clearly low prices for those with low income.

“If you and your party do not solve this problem,” Shai warned Cohen, “it will devour you.”

MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said that he hopes the final version of the bill will cure the government of its “too-blind faith” in the free market, which he opined always benefits the rich.

Another point of contention in the meeting was the Israel Lands Authority’s eligibility criteria for its affordable housing program, which were announced on Monday following an agreement between Netanyahu and Attias.

The program stipulates that the ILA publish “price for occupancy” tenders according to the following criteria: 45% of units will be allocated to families with children aged three years or more; 35% to families with children aged one or two; and the remaining 20% to individuals aged 35 or more, or to families without children.

Priority will be given in half of the tenders to specific sectors of the population, according to a points system: Men who served in the Israel Defense Forces will receive 20 points, and those who performed military or national service will receive 10 points.

Married couples will be eligible for up to 70 points.

MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) echoed Attias following the ILA’s announcement, telling the committee that those who “carry the country’s economic burden” by working and paying taxes should be allotted more points.

Kirschenbaum and MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Israel Beiteinu) demanded that the criteria be part of the bill, saying that without it, the affordable housing chapter will be futile.

Daphni Leef, one of the leaders of last summer’s social protests, said in the meeting that she does not understand how a bill on affordable housing can be proposed in the Knesset, while the criteria are determined elsewhere.

“This is a matter of logic,” she said. “The price of affordable housing should match your salary, what you are able to spend.”

Cohen responded that ministers determine criteria, not legislation.

“There is no housing solution for tomorrow morning,” he added. “An instant solution would be the government’s decision. They can decide in an hour.” The Knesset, however, writes laws, and that takes more time, Cohen explained.

Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.

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