Israel Beiteinu protest halts construction reform votes

Coalition could not get majority after Israel Beiteinu sides with opposition over affordable housing criteria.

Housing 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Housing 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Amnon Cohen (Shas), chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on Reforming the Planning and Construction Law, stopped final committee votes on Wednesday, after Israel Beiteinu began voting with the opposition in protest of the criteria for affordable housing.
According to Israel Beiteinu, the Likud has not kept its commitment to include in the bill that the criteria be decided by a ministerial vote, as opposed to a decision by the prime minister, finance minister and housing minister. This way, Israel Beiteinu hopes to make 125 percent employment per married couple (for example, one spouse working fulltime and the other one-quarter time) a requirement for affordable housing.
Therefore, late Tuesday night, MK Hamed Amer (Israel Beiteinu) began voting with the opposition, and by Wednesday morning, Cohen stopped the subcommittee votes, because the coalition could not get a majority.
Cohen, Israel Beiteinu and the Likud continued to negotiate throughout the day. The next subcommittee meeting has been delayed until Monday, in hopes the MKs will reach an agreement that would allow voting to resume.
The subcommittee has been working on the lengthy bill for more than two years. In addition to affordable housing, some of the topics in the legislation include institutions for authorizing planning and construction and the process of planning new construction as well as penalties for not following the new guidelines.
Last month, Cohen finished preparing the bill for its second and third (final) plenum readings, but opposition MKs submitted 630 reservations, each of which must be discussed and put to a vote by subcommittee members.
Nearly 300 of those have been discussed in the committee, and most were voted down.
At the same time, coalition MKs have consistently voted in favor of the subcommittee’s changes to the bill, as opposed to the original, government version of the bill.
According to Cohen, the subcommittee’s amendments make the bill friendlier to citizens, as opposed to the government.
Some examples of changes to the legislation include adding Arab and Druse municipality representatives to the National Council for Planning and Construction, as well as representatives of the Israel Parks and Nature Authority in the regional subcommittees.