Why Israel is heading for a housing disaster

Dror Marmor

Clue: 181,000 babies were born in Israel in 2016, and 24,000 immigrants arrived.

While Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant counted 6,000 buyer's price lotteries in 2016 and celebrated 280 apartments for long-term rent in Herzliya, 181,000 babies were born in Israel. 5,000 couples married each month, and 1,000 couples divorced and presumably looked for another apartment for one ex-partner to live in. Meanwhile, 24,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel. Zionism.

A small country? 8,650,000 citizens live in Israel plus about 200,000 invisible illegal immigrants. Almost without feeling it, we have overtaken Austria and Switzerland.

The average fertility rate per woman in Israel is 3.13 children – the rate is the same for Jewish and Arab women, incidentally. In Austria, a woman gives birth to 1.9 children on average. In Switzerland, she makes do with 1.5. In those countries, they need fewer homes with each passing generation. Here, we need almost twice as many.

In another fifteen years, more than ten million Israelis will live here, while year after year we shall continue to measure housing starts in relation to the previous year's number or to the construction peaks of the glorious 1990s. Remember heroic Arik Sharon finding housing solutions for the million immigrants who arrived in Israel within a few years? In fifteen years' time, there will be a million more Israelis every five years.

But who thinks ahead? At best, we let an Excel spreadsheet calculate how many homes we'll need by 2040, and celebrate as though we can already live in them.

It isn't just homes. The technological revolution will not stop at mobile telephones or at automated cars. In five, ten or twenty years, will every worker need a 12 square meter room, when everyone's office is mainly in their smartphone?

Are the plans for more and more huge office towers and enclosed malls in Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva, Herzliya and Tel Aviv the dream of municipalities that want more municipal taxes, or has someone really stopped to think about a strategy for the coming years?

No-one dares change even the planning in the kibbutzim and moshavim. Seven and ten-acre holdings continue to be sold, and parents are still forced to choose one child who will stay in the settlement, when in any case no farmer can make a living out of less than 250 acres.

In this way we pass all the big problems on from one generation to the next. Meanwhile, we create instant solutions to fill holes. A real long-term strategy? Apparently we're good at that only when it comes to procuring submarines that we might need in another decade or two. But then, maybe it's really best to bury our heads 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 26, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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