The real root of the housing shortage

Approving additional construction in Judea and Samaria would help reduce demand in the center.

By NAHI EYAL
July 25, 2011 22:55
3 minute read.
Activists prepare at tent city for march and rally

Tent City Rally 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)

The tent protesters on Rothschild Boulevard have hit a sore spot. An apartment has become a product only for the rich, mortgages are like shadows following every other Israeli in the street, and rent costs grow ever heavier.

The protests on Rothschild Boulevard and in other tent cities across the country are also the protests of the young people of Efrat, Karnei Shomron and Ariel. The government’s irresponsibility has led to the building freeze in Judea and Samaria. It isn’t just the 10-month moratorium that started on November 25, 2009, but also the near-complete freeze since then in almost all the settlements and big cities of the region.

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Instead of using this land to enable broad-scale housing solutions, the government drags its feet, or worse, stops all building – not just in settlements deep in the territory; not just in “outposts” that, at the defense minister’s insistence, are not entitled to the final signature enabling building plans, but also in bigger settlements in the heart of the consensus.

According to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics last year, 4,000 people were added to the Judea and Samaria population in 2009. But housing starts stopped almost completely. During 2009, 1,888 houses and apartments were started; in 2008, 2,107. During 2010, the building freeze was on, and this year the government has permitted (according to official data on the Peace Now website) only 1,200 units – a mockery. On top of that, these are only initial permits, and will take years to finalize.

The icing on the cake is that the prime minister has abstained from even permitting building tenders in Jerusalem.

THE OUTCOME is clear. Young couples who have considered purchasing new apartments in Judea and Samaria have given up on the idea and joined the apartment-hunters in the country’s center – which, of course, adds to the price increases.

Meanwhile, the building cessation has also raised housing prices throughout the settlements. According to publications from the past year, there have been 10-25% increases in apartment prices over the past two years in Ariel, Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim, Efrat and Beitar Illit.

The demonstrating student who dreams of purchasing a three-room apartment in Kfar Saba doesn’t understand that as well as the government’s shortcomings and the not-so-simple market, leftist organizations are also to blame. The student sitting beside him on the grass, the one who volunteers with Peace Now on Saturdays and goes around settlements taking pictures of housing starts, is a hidden partner in the increase of apartment prices.

Yes, pressure from extreme left-wing organizations such as Peace Now, Yesh Din and their allies from the New Israel Fund, frightens the prime minister and his cabinet, and is stopping them from promoting building projects and authorizing tenders in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

The chain reaction is clear. An apartment-less young couple from Karnei Shomron moves to Kfar Saba and tries to obtain the same apartment as our student demonstrating on the Rothschild grass. Competition raises the prices, so the student comes to the government with his complaints.

THE RIGHT to housing derives from the basic right of dignity and freedom. It is every citizen’s right – including those from Efrat and Karnei Shomron – to receive serious answers from the government regarding the housing issue. It should be made clear that building along Rothschild Boulevard will not help decrease housing prices; hastened building in all the Judea and Samaria settlements will. If the government gets its act together and takes measures in this direction, we might even be able to help our student from Peace Now buy a 2.5-room apartment in Kfar Saba for a reasonable price.

The writer is director-general of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel.


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