(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias issued a stern warning Wednesday
to fellow cabinet members, threatening a coalition crisis in the event that the
government failed to alleviate the acute housing shortage and rising mortgage
During a special recess session of the Knesset, Shas and United
Torah Judaism warned that if steps were not taken to build tens of thousands of
additional homes, the parties would throw their support behind an affordable
housing bill opposed by the Treasury.
Haredi MKs initially requested
Wednesday’s special session in response to increased outcry over rising interest
rates that are raising mortgage payments.
“There are steps that the
government took to lower prices, but the results will not be visible
immediately,” Attias said during the debate, but warned that “on the subject of
mortgages, if we have to, we will vote against the government. We have a strong
majority on this issue – but if the finance minister comes to his senses, we can
avoid reaching such a situation.”
Attias said that when the Knesset
resumed regular work in mid-May, Shas would support in its first reading the
private member’s bill that would offer significant subsidies for young couples
buying their first home in the periphery.
The bill would enable
first-time buyers in multi-family dwellings in the periphery to receive an
additional loan, aside from a regular mortgage, of up to NIS 140,000 and monthly
mortgage subsidies of NIS 800.
In the waning days of the Knesset’s winter
session, the legislation was approved for its first reading by the
Shas-controlled Interior Committee. But before the plenum could vote on the
first reading, UTJ and Shas agreed to put the bill on hold, after the Treasury
complained that it would cost the state tens of billions of shekels to subsidize
the first-time mortgages.
MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) added fuel to the fire
Wednesday when he warned that if the government failed to act to lower housing
prices, his party would consider seeking the approval of their rabbinical
leaders to leave the coalition.
“The high prices could lead to protests
and even revolutions similar those that occurred among our neighbors in the
Middle East,” he added.
Twenty-five MKs from both the coalition and
opposition signed a petition calling the Knesset into session to discuss the