PM, finance, construction ministers to make housing plan

After march on Knesset, Netanyahu meets with Steinitz, Atias, agree to give breaks to couples buying first apartment, increase funding for student housing; upcoming meetings to focus on easing housing restrictions.

Tent City Rally (Ben) 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman [file])
Tent City Rally (Ben) 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman [file])
After meeting late into Sunday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet again with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias Monday in order to formulate a plan to ease housing restrictions, Army Radio reported.
The meetings Sunday night and Monday morning came on the tail of mass protests in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem, the latter of which saw at least 1,000 demonstrators marching on the Knesset, perturbed over the soaring cost of housing. As part of a larger state-housing plan, the three agreed Sunday to provide benefits to couples who purchase their first apartment and to increase funding for student dormitories. RELATED:Students burst into Knesset c'tee meeting, break glassesCourt orders release of 8 arrested in TA housing rally J'lem: Tent-city protesters to head to Knesset
It was also agreed upon to continue with the establishment of national housing committees, adding that these committees will include an "affordable housing" component, Army Radio said.
Following a week of tent protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, nearly a thousand demonstrators furious over the soaring cost of housing marched to the Knesset on Sunday night with a dozen tents hoisted on their shoulders.
Chanting “the nation demands social justice!” the demonstrators packed up their temporary camp-out in Kikar Tzahal, next to the Old City Walls, and moved their tents next to the entrance to the Knesset.
They plan to stay the night in front of the Knesset, and on Monday afternoon will move to a permanent camp in Gan Hasus (Horse Park) on King George Street, where they will stay until “there is meaningful change,” said Sivan Vardi, the director of the Jerusalem activist organization Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit).
“Until we get the things we need, we are going to stay in the streets,” she said.
On Monday morning, demonstrators will build a fake brick wall and use their tents to block the entrance to the Knesset, representing the “impenetrable wall” that the government has put around affordable housing. The gesture is intended to symbolically prevent Knesset members from attending a vote on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s National Housing Committee Law.
“This is the first time the middle class is waking up and demanding to be able to live here,” said Rachel Azaria, a city councilwoman from the Yerushalmim party. “It’s not only about housing, it’s much larger,” Azaria continued, as she marched with her husband and three daughters on Sunday night.
“I have no money to pay for rent, [my] salary keeps going down and the rent goes up – it’s impossible to live here,” said 27-year-old Itai Abuav, a political science student at the Hebrew University, echoing the sentiments of hundreds of the demonstrators.
The protesters on Sunday night were almost exclusively people in their 20s trying to balance school and work with paying the rent.
“I could be the dad of almost everyone here,” said Haim Ben-Ami, a 59-year-old former high-school principal who was one of the only demonstrators over age 30. Ben-Ami has been looking for an apartment for his daughter for the past few months and was discouraged by what he has found.
“Finally, the students got out of their apathy and are actually doing something,” he said. He added that most parents were embarrassed to show up at the protest because it meant that they were struggling to help their children pay rent.
Ben-Ami, who now works in real estate, after retiring from education, said that since the tent protests started two weeks ago, rents have actually increased by hundreds of shekels as landlords in Jerusalem learned how much students pay to live in Tel Aviv.
Former Jerusalemite Amir Ben- Cohen, who moved to south Tel Aviv because the prices were lower than Jerusalem, said the small number of demonstrators on Sunday night was because people were “simply exhausted” from the past week of protests, including the large demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, which attracted upwards of 20,000 people.
“Yesterday was a critical mass of people,” said Ben-Cohen, a 29-yearold anthropology student at the Hebrew University. “Yesterday, there was optimism; we really felt there was something changing.”
One demonstrator was detained after trying to jump the fence in front of the Knesset, but the demonstration was much tamer than Saturday’s Tel Aviv march, when 43 people were arrested for tussling with police as the event broke up.