Building in settlements stay at ‘freeze’ level

Housing starts dropped 65% in third quarter.

Settlement Construction 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Settlement Construction 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would have no need to order a second freeze on new settler homes in the West Bank, because a de facto one already exists, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data published on Wednesday.
There were just as few settler housing starts in the third quarter of this year as there were during the same period in 2010, when the government imposed a moratorium on such activity.
Work began on 105 settler homes between July and September of this year, compared with the 113 starts in the same months in 2010, the CBS said.
Although the 2011 figure is likely to climb slightly in upcoming reports as data is adjusted, it is unlikely to grow significantly.
The 105 figure marks a 65 percent drop in construction from the second quarter, when there were 302 housing starts. There were 305 settler housing starts in the first quarter of this year.
Similarly, there was a 60% drop in the number of West Bank Jewish homes completed in the in the third quarter, to 179, down from 447 in the second quarter, according to the CBS.
That’s a 53% drop when compared with the 382 settler homes that were completed in the third quarter of last year.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said she could not explain the sharp drop in the CBS numbers.
“In the field, the numbers are dramatically higher,” Ofran said.
In compiling its own data, Peace Now relies on its field-work as well as aerial photographs.
The CBS data is incomplete, Ofran said, because it relies heavily on self-reported information from the settlement regional councils or municipalities.
But the CBS said that it also draws data from the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Interior Ministry. When it comes to private construction, it also makes use of data from contractors.
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said, however, that the data did not surprise him.
“Not enough new housing approvals have been granted,” he said. The pipeline of approvals from past governments is getting dryer and dryer.”
The council has long warned of a de facto freeze and has repeatedly called on Netanyahu to issue building permits.
The National Union has tried to advance legislation to mandate such construction in some of the larger settlements.
Shmuel Levy, who heads the Association of Building and Infrastructure Contractors of the Jerusalem area, echoed Dayan’s statements.
“It’s as if there was a freeze,” Levy said. The government has bowed to American pressure and is not issuing new permits, and as a result, there is little new construction, he said.
Since the 10-month moratorium on housing starts ended on September 26, 2010, approvals have been given for 200 new homes in Mod’in Illit and 294 new ones in Betar Illit, but it is unclear if the projects have received all the authorizations necessary for work to begin.
Tenders were also issued in the past few weeks for 277 homes in Ariel, 277 in Efrat and 40 in Ma’aleh Adumim.
But none of these approvals have yet had an effect on the ground.
The previous moratorium makes it difficult to compare 2011 with 2010.
During the first three quarters of 2010, exceptions were made to the moratorium that allowed for foundations to be laid for 188 homes.
There has been a 278% jump, to 712 housing starts, in the first three quarters of this year, But that is a drop of 37% when compared with the 1,137 settler housing starts in the first three quarters of 2009, when, like this year, no freeze was in place.
When it comes to completed homes, even with the steep drop in numbers between the second and third quarter, overall there is no real difference between the 1,364 homes finished in the first nine months of this year, compared with the 1,349 units completed in the same period in 2010.
The moratorium did not affect homes for which foundations had already been laid, and thus building on those units, was allowed to continue as normal in 2010.
In the 12 months since the moratorium expired, from October 2010 until the end of September 2011, foundations have been laid for 1,274 new settler homes.
In that same period, 1,684 homes were finished.
Looking back over the past five years, there were 1,518 settler housing starts in 2006, 1,471 in 2007, 2,324 in 2008, 1,962 in 2009 and 676 in 2010. The bulk of new construction last year, 488 units, occurred in the last quarter, after the 10-month moratorium.
In the past five years, 2,167 homes were completed in 2006, 1,747 in 2007, 1,601 in 2008, 2,063 in 2009, and 1,669 in 2010.