The Israel Land Authority tenders committee has disqualified bids for residential lots filed by haredi (ultra-orthodox) charities in the planned town of Harish. The decision could have far-reaching consequences on the character of the town.
Publication of the results of tenders for lots zoned for 4,634 housing units in Harish was delayed for over two months since the tender was closed. A letter by secular buyers groups to the Israel Land Authority and Ministry of Housing and Construction a day after the deadline resulted in meetings and hearings at the Israel Land Authority and Ministry of Justice, with the final decision ending up back at the tenders committee.
A secular buyers group alleged that haredi charities in the tender did not meet its conditions, raising suspicions of price-fixing among groups in violation of tenders laws. At issue was 12 haredi charities which organized as the United Haredi Housing Committee. When the tender was closed, there were reports that the haredi charities had been marked as winners for most of the lots.
The case will now probably end up in court.
The disqualification of the haredi charities completely changes the picture about the winning bids in the tenders, and may change the character of the future town. For years, Harish was intended to be a haredi town, and was designed as such. The haredi community suffers from a severe housing shortage, and considered Harish as a salvation, especially given the heavily subsidized land prices.
The disqualification automatically makes the second highest bid the winner. In this case, because of the heavy subsidies, the second highest bid is much lower.
The timing of the decision, a week before the Knesset elections, is a major blow to Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias of Shas, who had promoted the tender in the past year. Industry sources had expected a decision in the tender to be made only after the elections, but today's timing will likely affect them.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 17, 2013
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