(photo credit: REUTERS)
Koolanu leader Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday unveiled more details of his party’s plan to tackle the housing crisis, which he said had created a generation of “homeless” people.
The plan, which was put together by former Finance Ministry budget director Gal Hershkowitz and is titled the “apartment bottom line,” calls for introducing competition along the entire housing supply chain, from development to licensing. It would aim to reduce the wait for building permits from three years to three months, encourage urban renewal, and impose a 3 percent tax surcharge for developers who lag behind schedule.
The new details of the plan involve a method of issuing tenders for land that will require detailed plans on when the construction will start and be completed, abolish minimum prices, and set aside some apartments for first-time owners. It would seek the removal of barriers for 250,000 housing units that are unable to be inhabited because of issues such as missing infrastructure.
Once again, Kahlon called for breaking apart the Israel Lands Authority, and letting other organizations plan and market public domain land. It would concentrate the various governmental authorities for housing under one roof to help bring down barriers.
“[Former finance minister Yair] Lapid and [Prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu created an incredible traffic jam in which 250,000 housing units that were already put on the market are stuck in a state of planning. An entire nation is stuck in the housing jam Lapid and Netanyahu failed to unblock,” Kahlon said, noting that in 2008, the average cost of a home was equivalent to 103 monthly salaries. By 2014, the figure rose to 141.
Koolanu Knesset candidate Merav Ben-Ari added a personal note to the policy. Despite being nearly 40 years old, having a master’s degree and having a steady job, she cannot afford a home, she said.
“I belong to a generation of homeless people, people who went to the army, do reserve duty, pay taxes, get up in the morning to work, earn money but are unable to build a home,” she said. “When I am talking about the social crisis, I am talking about me, about my friends, people I know who are living in overdraft who don’t have a home.
Kahlon warned that economic calamity was around the corner.
“The Israeli economy is marching toward a catastrophe,” he said. “A wave of price increases, the insane price of housing and the wave of layoffs expected in the economy, indicate that the Israeli economy is entering one of the worst economic and social crises in its history.”
Construction Minister Uri Ariel’s Bayit Yehudi party shot back that the number of housing starts had jumped already, and touted umbrella agreements it had already put in place in several cities to help infrastructure plans come together.
“These actions will already affect the market in 2015, and will bring to a fall in prices. Bayit Yehudi will continue to lead the changes in the field instead of selling dreams that have no connection to reality,” the party said.