Knesset works to allocate land for housing

Protesters yell "We're sick of it!" in hearing to find solution to ongoing rent crisis; Opposition MKs say gov't is avoiding defining accessible housing.

Livni meets students in Knesset 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Livni meets students in Knesset 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A joint meeting of the Knesset Economics and Interior Committees finalized the bill to expedite the construction planning process on Monday, adding an article requiring land to be allocated for accessible housing.
Opposition MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Majallie Whbee (Kadima) said the government is avoiding defining accessible housing, and that the bill is too general.
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Representatives of the National Union of Israel Students interrupted the meeting, demanding more specific legislation on accessible housing.
They yelled, “We’re sick of this.”
Some of the students were ejected from the meeting.
Only NUIS Chairman Itzik Shmuli was permitted to speak.
The bill is “just a headline empty of content. We will continue our battle until there is accessible housing with guarantees from the government,” he said.
During the meeting MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) explained that the bill talks about planning in general, and it does not make sense to include an exact definition of accessible housing.
Later, in a conference sponsored by the Knesset Social- Environmental and Local Authorities Caucuses, Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) spoke out against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his planned solutions to the housing crisis.
“This law is not enough – it only deals with a specific bureaucratic angle, and not every problem,” Livni said.
“The minute the Israel Lands Authorities understands that its job is not to make more money for the state, and it needs to behave according to national priorities, then land prices will drop.”
She added, addressing protesters: “This law does not end the battle – keep fighting, and we will fight with you, until Netanyahu breaks.”
“The prime minister is busy with numbers and economics books, but does not see his citizens.
Israel is in a good economic situation, but this isn’t translated into a higher quality of life. It will not trickle down [to the people] if the government does not decide to intervene,” Livni explained.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said that “today the Knesset slapped the housing protest in the face,” because the housing bill was approved for a second and third (final) reading.
“The coalition voted down every change to the bill; all of our requests were rejected,” he said. “We need a real improvement – it’s possible.”
MK Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima) said that “when the coalition is so strong that they can authorize any bill they want, the line between what is allowed and what isn’t begins to get blurred. The coalition drafts laws without thinking.”
“Now we see the prime minister holding his head in his hand and thinking, ‘wait a minute, what am I doing here?’” Bielski said.
Shas MKs expressed their frustration with rising prices in a meeting with party leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai, during which they presented their ideas for change.
“The issues that are exploding today, and the Prime Minister’s Office is busy with today, are things Shas talked about two years ago when the coalition was put together,” Yishai pointed out. “Everyone seems to have forgotten that today.”
Housing Minister Ariel Atias said the government’s reforms will lower housing prices by lowering the price of land.
“Building a meter in Dimona and a meter in Tel Aviv costs the same. The difference is in the price of land,” he explained. “The government can make a difference by raising the supply. This year, for the first time, the supply [of land for sale] has met the demand.”
“Accessible housing has been on Shas’s agenda for over a year,” Atias said, “but there is a problem with the definition of accessible – who should receive it and where should it be.”
Atias said that such a definition is “on the Justice Minister’s desk” and it will “do much more than just adding a line to [the coalition’s housing] bill.”
“I told the Finance Committee over a year ago that one day there will be an uprising over housing,” MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said. “The government needs to wake up.”
Yishai repeated the sentiment, explaining that “the one issue that will shorten this government’s lifetime is housing.”
“If the government does not take its income and give it to the weaker sectors, the problem will continue in the next government.”
MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) called on the government to “put a hand in its pocket and help. The free market can’t always decide what is best for the people.”
Cohen and MK David Azoulay (Shas) suggested that young couples receive an exemption from value-added tax on their first home, and that rental rates be regulated by the government.