PM’s bill to end housing crisis passes first hurdle

Livni says Netanyahu is only looking for headlines with 'priority' bill, says price cuts necessary all around.

Eilat housing_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eilat housing_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After a heated discussion in the plenum, the Knesset approved on Monday the first reading of a bill meant to resolve the housing crisis by speeding the construction of new homes.
The legislation passed with 51 in favor and 20 opposed.
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The government-sponsored bill, which in an unusual move was presented to the Knesset by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is an emergency building plan that would bypass bureaucracy to allow for the quicker construction of apartments.
The resulting increase in housing is meant to lower prices, so more young couples can afford to buy homes.
The plan includes the formation of National Housing Committees in each planning district whose function would be to approve building plans for 200 or more homes that vary in size. The bill also includes specific time frames for construction to allow for a “fast track.”
“One of the main reasons for the housing crisis is a massive bureaucratic bottleneck,” Netanyahu told reporters before the vote.
“It takes three years for a home to be planned – almost a world record high,” he said.
“I am proposing a green track for planning homes, which I hope will solve the crisis.”
He added that the bill, which would be in force for 18 months, would lead to tens of thousands of housing units being built.
The legislation will be prepared for second and third (final) readings by a joint committee of the Interior and Economics committees, which will be formed on Tuesday and headed by Economics Committee chairman and Interior Committee member Carmel Shama- Hacohen (Likud).
Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) spoke out against the bill, saying that it is not enough to remedy the country’s socioeconomic woes.
“Price cuts are necessary for everything, not just housing,” she said. “Young couples can’t make it through the month. The cottage cheese struggle has become a struggle over housing. Parents who wake up in the morning and go to work, save money and want to know their children will have where to live – discover that every day the prime minister speaks, but a home is harder and harder to attain.
“You can’t pay for an apartment with speeches,” Livni added, addressing Netanyahu. “The prime minister talks about reforms only to get headlines. The gap between his declarations and their execution, in economics and in other areas, is like the gap between his arrogance and the reality for young couples in the State of Israel.
“We in Kadima will make sure, through legislation, to fix this bill,” she said.
Last week, coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post that the bill was a priority for Netanyahu and the coalition.
“It won’t be easy for Netanyahu to advance his emergency plan, but it’s very, very important to stop housing prices from continuing to rise. I will work to pass it by the end of the summer term [August 7],” Elkin said.