Economic affairs committee discusses five-point plan for public housing

MK Cabel: For 20 years I have seen no change on the issue.

Bauhaus building in Tel Aviv  (photo credit: TALMORYAIR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Bauhaus building in Tel Aviv
A five-point plan to deal with the public housing crisis was presented to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee by Construction Minister Yoav Galant on Monday.
“20 years ago, 14 percent of apartments belonged to public housing and today only 2% do. From some 120,000 apartments in the beginning of 2000 we have now reached some 62,000 apartments today,” said Galant.
Galant noted that the ministry had halted the sale of apartments to anyone not eligible for public housing and had determined a five-point plan to deal with the crisis.
The plan includes filling 500 out of the 700 empty apartments by the upcoming High Holy Days and filling the rest of them by the end of the year.
In addition, 4,000 – 5,000 apartments would be renovated annually under the plan and 5% of apartments sold through the “mechir lemishtaken” (price for occupant) program would be available for purchase by the government. The ministry intends on spending NIS 700 million left over from selling public housing to buy new apartments to expand the number of units available.
Galant added that the ministry is working on a long-term program, together with Amidar, the state-owned housing company. The program plans to improve the apartments through the ‘Pinui Binui’ Clearance and Construction scheme, an initiative in which tenants are moved out of their apartments by the government while the buildings are renovated and apartments are added to the buildings.
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), chair of the committee, said that for 20 years he has been following the issue of public housing and has not seen a change.
“[Minister Galant] is planting great hopes and the committee intends to monitor the implementation of the plan,” said Cabel, adding that the committee will host a follow-up meeting after the summer recess.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) cautioned the committee from a situation where those eligible for public housing would not be able to return to their homes after a ‘Pinui Binui,’ as rent and maintenance prices rise when apartments are renovated.
MK Itzik Shmuli was among the MKs present to praise Galant for his plans, but also warned about the potential dangers of a ‘Pinui Binui’ plan.
“It is impossible not to be impressed with the determination and will to bring about change,” said Shmuli, adding that with ‘Pinui Binui’ there is a need “to prevent a situation in which the clearance is carried out now but about construction ‘we’ll talk to you later.’” Shmuli also expressed his concern about entrusting the matter to Amidar, as it is originally a housing company and not an entrepreneurial concern. He also criticized Amidar for not sending representatives to the Knesset meeting discussing the topic last week.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) criticized that those waiting for public housing are sent to the periphery and said that “the self-participation in rent for those awaiting [public housing] is abuse.”
She further accused Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin of threatening to thwart her bill on the issue if she “shares the wealth.” She said she would turn to the attorney general on the matter, and did so later on Monday, saying that Elkin had acted in a “threatening and inappropriate” manner.
In response, Elkin said that “MK Orly Levy-Abecassis is brazenly lying.”
“Until today we had only one discussion between us on the topic of her bill and during the course of that discussion I explained that I support her bill but demand to expand the legislation to also include those new immigrants eligible for public housing,” he explained.
Elkin went on to say that primary legislation in Israel should not create discrimination between those eligible for housing through different ministries, and that the bill proposed by Levy-Abecassis would harm the immigrant society and discriminate against them.
After the Finance Ministry objected to expanding the law to include immigrants, Elkin said that at this point in time, it was decided to accept his proposal to establish a committee of director- generals from the three ministries involved, namely the Finance,