Attias threatens coalition crisis over housing shortage

Shas, United Torah Judaism warned that if steps not taken to build thousands of additional homes, parties would throw their support behind housing bill.

311_ariel attias (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_ariel attias
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias issued a stern warning Wednesday to fellow cabinet members, threatening a coalition crisis in the event that the government failed to alleviate the acute housing shortage and rising mortgage rates.
During a special recess session of the Knesset, Shas and United Torah Judaism warned that if steps were not taken to build tens of thousands of additional homes, the parties would throw their support behind an affordable housing bill opposed by the Treasury.
Haredi MKs initially requested Wednesday’s special session in response to increased outcry over rising interest rates that are raising mortgage payments.
“There are steps that the government took to lower prices, but the results will not be visible immediately,” Attias said during the debate, but warned that “on the subject of mortgages, if we have to, we will vote against the government. We have a strong majority on this issue – but if the finance minister comes to his senses, we can avoid reaching such a situation.”
Attias said that when the Knesset resumed regular work in mid-May, Shas would support in its first reading the private member’s bill that would offer significant subsidies for young couples buying their first home in the periphery.
The bill would enable first-time buyers in multi-family dwellings in the periphery to receive an additional loan, aside from a regular mortgage, of up to NIS 140,000 and monthly mortgage subsidies of NIS 800.
In the waning days of the Knesset’s winter session, the legislation was approved for its first reading by the Shas-controlled Interior Committee. But before the plenum could vote on the first reading, UTJ and Shas agreed to put the bill on hold, after the Treasury complained that it would cost the state tens of billions of shekels to subsidize the first-time mortgages.
MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) added fuel to the fire Wednesday when he warned that if the government failed to act to lower housing prices, his party would consider seeking the approval of their rabbinical leaders to leave the coalition.
“The high prices could lead to protests and even revolutions similar those that occurred among our neighbors in the Middle East,” he added.
Twenty-five MKs from both the coalition and opposition signed a petition calling the Knesset into session to discuss the housing crisis.