MKs visit tent city, declare emergency meeting

Shama-Hacohen: Either prices will fall or the government will fall; Kadima, Likud blame each other for high rental rates.

Tent City Undearwear 311 (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Tent City Undearwear 311
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
The Knesset Economics Committee will hold an emergency meeting on the housing crisis, committee chairman Carmel Shama- Hacohen announced on Sunday, during a visit to the tentcity protest on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.

Shama-Hacohen and three other members of the joint Knesset Economics and Interior Committee on the Bill to Accelerate Housing Construction, Kadima MKs Yulia Shamolov Berkovich and Nino Abesadze, as well as MK Dov Henin (Hadash), sat in the demonstration’s “living room,” and listened to the complaints of tent city “residents.”RELATED:PM responds to tent protesters: Come protest in Jerusalem‘Revolt over rent’ launched in Tel Aviv“Either prices will fall, or the government will fall – it’s one or the other,” Shama- Hacohen said.“The housing crisis is everyone’s crisis, and not just one sector of the population,” he said. “We didn’t need tents in order to understand it.”After listening to demonstrators’ laments, Shama- Hacohen had an impromptu discussion with a Knesset staffer on the spot, and added a meeting on the housing crisis to his committee’s agenda.“It is the Knesset’s obligation to find a solution,” the Likud lawmaker said. “Three weeks ago, the prime minister told me that we need to pass emergency legislation [on the crisis], and I told the bureaucrats in the relevant government offices that the committee is looking for specific and immediate solutions to housing for young people – homes for rent at reasonable rates, and affordable housing.”Shama-Hacohen also said that he and MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) had proposed a bill to limit rent increases.Shamolov Berkovich said, “It’s too bad that there are more photographers than protesters here, but I’m glad that the media are helping people notice this social issue. It’s a start.“The housing crisis didn’t happen because we don’t have money,” she said. “It’s because we don’t have compassion. We’re lacking values. “This is the end of days. I won’t tolerate a Jewish state where Jews don’t have homes,” the Kadima MK said. “I want Israel to be the best place to live.”Israelis have “lost faith in this country and in one another, but there are many new, young MKs saying ‘we’re with you,’ and I think time will show this is true,” Shamolov Berkovich said.Henin recommended that the government raise taxes on owners who do not rent out their empty houses, and that rental rates should be regulated.“People call this a free market – what freedom is there in the current situation?” he asked.Abesadze called for the coalition and opposition to join forces to deal with this “apolitical issue.”She recounted her own experiences as a new immigrant from Georgia in the former Soviet Union.“I came here along with a million others 15 years ago, and I had to start all over, from nothing,” Abesadze said. “I didn’t have rich grandparents who could help. I had to work to pay for an apartment.“I went straight from unemployment checks to the Knesset,” she said. “I know what it’s like to have trouble making it through the month.“The problem isn’t just for immigrants – it’s young people as well. What kind of future can we discuss if young people don’t have anywhere to live?” the Kadima MK asked.Abesadze also said that she and her three daughters would sleep in the tent city that night.Meanwhile, Kadima and the Likud blamed each other for the housing situation.Kadima announced that its weekly no-confidence motion, to be presented on Monday afternoon, would be titled “The Netanyahu government’s failure in solving the housing crisis for citizens of Israel, specifically young couples.”Later on Sunday, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said that “the government does not encourage renting apartments.Reforms do not replace policies.“Policies have to change here and now, by rearranging national real estate and investment priorities,” she said. “The solution is right under our noses, and it requires making decisions.“The government cannot say it is not responsible for what happens in the market. Even if there is privatization, even if there was regulation and they removed it, the government needs to have its finger on the public’s pulse and check itself,” Livni said. “The government needs to make policies that will make life easier for its citizens, especially the middle class.”A Likud spokeswoman said that “Kadima is once again trying to make headlines in areas where it has already failed. When Kadima was the ruling party, there was less construction in the center of the country.“The housing crisis was worse during Kadima’s time, and they completely ignored the issue,” the spokeswoman added. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proposed an increase in output, as well as real-estate reforms that will speed up planning and construction.“Kadima talks, while Likud acts,” she said.Also on Sunday, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, “The housing crisis is a result of the [settlement] freeze.”
“When you freeze construction in Alfei Menashe [in Samaria], prices in Kfar Saba increase,” Ariel explained.“For 10 months, a flourishing and attractive real-estate market was frozen, leading to the current crisis.“If the prime minister really wants to solve the problem for his citizens, tomorrow he will authorize 7,000 apartments in Judea and Samaria,” he suggested. “That is the real solution.”