C’tee demands public housing in national housing law

Likud MK Regev says won't pass law without public housing component; Lapid argues that he can only solve some parts of the problem.

Stone houses in Jerusalem (photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
Stone houses in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
The Internal Affairs and Environment Committee will not pass Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s National Housing Law unless he adds a public housing component, committee chairman MK Miri Regev said on Monday.
“This law will not pass without answers on public housing,” she said at a tense hearing over the law, which would create a fast-track mechanism to push construction projects through Israel’s bureaucracy.
While schemes for housing the poor were important, Lapid said, “the primary problem has to be solving the housing crisis.”
Real estate prices have risen 50 percent in six years, he said.
The plan on the table, he argued, was aimed at one part of the problem, and should not be a vehicle for addressing every aspect of the housing market.
With a major shortage in supply, the solution was to fast-track projects to put more housing units on the market, which will bring down the overall prices, he said.
It takes five years for building plans to pass through district authority bureaucracy, and 10 years for government land to get to market, said Amir Levy, the Finance Ministry’s Budgets Department director.
Regev (Likud Beytenu), though generally supportive of the law, said that it needed clauses to address immediate problems, not just long-term issues in the market.
Opposition MKs hammered Lapid for not focusing enough on affordable and public housing in the law.
“Affordable housing isn’t putting a family in a hole and saying here, this is cheap, it’s getting a proper, livable apartment with a price relative to the median,” said Hadash MK Hanna Swaid.
Yesh Atid had made campaign promises on public housing that were absent from the plans, said Hadash MK Dov Hanin.
“Your manifesto promised public housing, so where is it if not here?” he said.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said the plan looked at the solutions “without considering affordable and public housing, which is the essence of the problem, and without price controls.”
The Forum for Public Housing demanded that 20% of new housing would be set aside for public housing, arguing that other Western nations set significantly larger sums aside for public and affordable housing.
Vicky Vanunu, a representative from Hamaabara, a Jerusalem forum for public housing, called the law “clumsy,” adding that efforts to confine public and affordable housing were unacceptable. Those who cannot afford housing can certainly not afford a car and other necessities to get by outside the cities, she argued.
“What will be done in the periphery?” she asked. “I was born in Jerusalem. I want to be in Jerusalem.”