Cabinet OKs restricted housing cabinet, but leaves environment out

The exclusion of the Environmental Protection Minister from the Housing Cabinet raised concerns from green groups.

Apartment blocks in Nof Zion. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Apartment blocks in Nof Zion.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The cabinet on Tuesday approved a restructured housing cabinet that excludes the environmental protection minister and also approved the redistribution of housing-related bodies into the Finance Ministry.
In his coalition negotiation deal, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon demanded that he take control of the Israel Lands Authority from the Construction Ministry – which his Kulanu party holds anyway – and the planning administration from the Interior Ministry.
Taking the two authorities under his own control, Kahlon said Tuesday, “is the first step in a complicated journey to dealing with the housing crisis.” He pushed for the measures to be expedited through the Knesset.
The Finance Ministry said that the central element for curbing increasing home prices is increasing supply, which the Bank of Israel has consistently cited as the crucial factor. Supply fell off drastically at the end of the last decade, though in recent years housing starts have returned to a level BOI said would be consistent with eventually stabilizing prices. Though the number of units planned on average each year rose from 25,000 from 2007-2011 to 68,000 from 2012-2014, according to the ministry, more needs to be done.
But the exclusion of the environmental protection minister from the housing cabinet raised concerns from green groups.
“It is unacceptable that in a panel with such great influence on all the Israeli public, the environmental protection minister will not be a member,” a statement from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said.
Ahead of the decision on the housing cabinet composition, SPNI CEO Moshe “Kosha” Pakman appealed to Kahlon on Monday, expressing his “amazement” that the environment minister would be axed from the cabinet, despite serving in this body during the previous government.
“How can it be that a committee that will discuss and decide upon projects of environmental significance does not include the Environmental Protection Ministry?” Pakman wrote to Kahlon.
“It was expected that the Environmental Protection Ministry would be among the leaders of the cabinet, in order to maintain balanced development and interests of the environment, health and lives of Israel’s residents,” he said. “We are all troubled about the housing shortage, but all development requires a balanced perspective, taking into account all the interests of the residents of Israel.”