Knesset Interior Committee approves fast-track housing bill

World Bank ranks Israel 140th out of 189 countries in building and construction bureaucracy index; new measure aims to bring down overinflated price of housing.

Gilo 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Gilo 370
(photo credit: reuters)
The Knesset Interior Committee approved a bill on Wednesday evening to promote housing projects in priority areas through a new fast-track committee.
The bill would create a Committee for the Preferred Housing Program, called the “vatmal” in its Hebrew abbreviation, which over the course of four years would be able to approve programs for tens of thousands of housing units, and is intended to reduce the cumbersome bureaucracy of the building process.
The committee itself will handle the procedural hurdles for housing projects that include more than 750 units designated by the Housing Cabinet as “national housing projects.”
Any such projects will have to designate 30% of the units for long-term rental, half of which will be under price supervision and half of which will sold at market prices.
While the bill aims to quickly reduce the cumbersome bureaucracy associated with housing for big projects, it will not help smaller projects around the country. The World Bank ranks Israel 140th out of 189 countries in its building and construction bureaucracy index.
The vatmal is one of a handful of measures the government is pursuing to bring down the overinflated price of housing, which has nearly doubled in the past seven years. One such initiative involves a series of “umbrella agreements” in towns around the country, which would also fast-track building by providing government funds for necessary infrastructure up front, and reducing the burden on local authorities.
Another measure, “price targeting,” involves adding a requirement for contractors bidding on land to compete on the basis of lowering final sale prices.
Finally, Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s plan for exempting some young couples buying their first homes from value-added tax – a plan economists have derided as costly, populist and ineffective – is expected to go into effect in September.