PM calls on all parties to help solve housing crisis

Tel Aviv tent city residents address Knesset committee; Housing Minister announces 6,900 new homes.

By
July 18, 2011 16:04
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu open mouth 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Yin Dongxun)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday urged all politicians to work with him to fix the housing crisis, after the Construction and Housing Ministry announced that 6,900 housing units would be built in 38 communities.

“Let’s work together for solutions. We will solve the housing crisis,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction, adding he would support initiatives from the coalition or from the opposition.

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The crisis is “an important challenge that we will overcome,” he explained to the Likud MKs. “We need to take care of the problem at the root.”

The prime minister mentioned the final bill in the government’s Lands Authority reform, which was approved in its first reading on Monday, as well as his bill to speed up planning for construction, which the Knesset Economics and Interior Committee are preparing for their second and third (final) readings, as “two basic tools that will bring many more homes to the market.”

“We ask for cooperation from the opposition on a tax measure that will encourage people to put empty apartments on the market,” Netanyahu said.

“I hope it will pass before the [Knesset] recess,” which begins on August 7.

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said that “for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve been telling the opposition that some things are more important than politics.

“Some people propose noconfidence votes on housing, and some people come up with solutions,” Elkin said.

During Kadima’s faction meeting on Monday, party chairwoman Tzipi Livni said “the tent protest is one of the most significant social processes taking place today.

“The citizens who are rising up are part of the groups in society, such as the middle-class and students, who carry the burden of disproportionate taxation,” she said.

“The problem isn’t only in Tel Aviv – taking care of bureaucracy is the right thing to do, but in some places there are enough homes, mostly in the Galilee and the Negev, but young people are still unable to rent or buy homes.”

Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) said that “for the first time in the past decade, this year the number of housing projects will surpass the demand. This will cut the ongoing shortage.”

Of the 6,900 housing units that will be built in 38 communities, 336 will be built in the West Bank. More than 1,000 will be constructed in the North, in Tiberias, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an and Nahariya, and homes will be built in the southern cities of Arad, Dimona, Mitzpe Ramon and Ashkelon. In addition, construction will take place in Rosh Ha’ayin, Kfar Saba and Lod, in the Central region.

Contract bidding will begin in 60 days, with the contracts going to whoever offers the lowest sale price per unit.

Earlier on Monday, representatives from the tent city in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard who are protesting housing prices addressed a joint meeting of the Knesset Economics and Interior Committee.

Stav Shafir, who said she was “democratically elected” to represent the tent-dwellers, said that while the housing issue is political, it crosses party lines.

“Talk to us, the simple people living in tents, and you will find solutions,” she told the 18 MKs present. “We are not economists or real estate experts, but we want to talk to people with that knowledge and work together.”

Committee chairman Carmel Shama- Hacohen (Likud) explained that the government’s housing bill is “very general.”

“We want to make sure that some of the 100,000 new homes the law is supposed to allow will go to those who are most hurt by the real-estate bubble,” he said. “You are out there, this is an issue in your everyday life. Tell us what you need. Decisions will be made in these halls that will make a difference.”

Soon thereafter, Shama-Hacohen dismissed MK Dov Henin (Hadash) for speaking out of turn three times and demanding to know why the bill does not include more accessible housing. Kadima MKs Yisrael Hasson and Nino Abesadze, as well as MK Avishai Braverman (Labor) left the room in protest, with Abesadze saying: “If no one can speak, what am I doing here?” MK Miri Regev (Likud), who was booed and sprayed with water when she visited the Rothschild Boulevard protest on Saturday night, said: “There are apartments in cheaper places. What do you want, a home on Fifth Avenue?” Shafir responded that prices are high all over the country. “To call us spoiled is just disrespectful,” she said.

MK Robert Tibayev (Kadima) told Shafir: “I don’t have what to say to you. What can I say, move to the periphery? There aren’t any apartments there, either.

“All the young people from the periphery move to the center, because they don’t have any homes or culture or jobs there.

There isn’t anything to do in the periphery,” he said.

“I hope Rothschild Boulevard will turn into the Tahrir Square of this government,” Tibayev declared. • TENT Continued from Page 1 barely able to cover the high cost of living in the Tel Aviv area.

“I live on a moshav next to Kiryat Gat, and take the train back and forth for over an hour and a half in each direction because I can’t find a way a way to pay NIS 3,000 in rent and NIS 3,000 in tuition each month,” Itai Ifrach said. “I can’t picture myself moving to Ramat Gan, or anywhere nearby. I would love to live in Ramat Gan, though.”

At the epicenter of the protest on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on Monday evening, a circus atmosphere had taken hold.

In the first days after the protest was launched by Tel Avivian Daphni Leef on Facebook last week, the tents covered a single block of the pedestrian walkway. By Monday evening, the tents had swelled in number and dotted a second block of the walkway, now reaching from Habima Square to Rehov Sheinkin. Like every day since Friday, a very large media contingent kept the spotlight on the demonstration.

A profusion of interest groups had swooped onto the boulevard over the preceding 12 hours, while the infrastructure of the tent city had expanded, now including a compost heap, and a stand where three 20-somethings sold beer and handed out anarchist literature.

Nearly a dozen activists from the Im Tirtzu movement strolled through the crowd handing out Israeli flags and chatting with protesters; and at around 7 p.m., a group of anti-African-migrant demonstrators marched through the tent city with placards blaming the housing shortage on African “infiltrators.”

While the protest seemed on the verge of losing any semblance of advancing a unified message, it was clear that it had become a phenomenon far beyond what it had been only four days before.


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