Gov't thwarts affordable housing bill

As tent protests escalate, the coalition has blocked the inclusion of an affordable housing clause in its planning and building bill.

At the height of the tent protests against soaring home prices, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has kept his promises of "surprises" made to the protestors. The coalition today blocked the inclusion of an affordable housing clause in the planning and building bill that is part of his real estate reform.

Netanyahu, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz, and Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias all voted against the private member's bills submitted by MK Shlomo (Neguse) Molla (Kadima). The vote was 48:40.

Molla's amendment proposed authorizing local planning and building commissions to expropriate land for affordable housing and to authorize municipalities to allot the land or buildings for this purpose.

During the vote, Minister of Interior Eli Yishai told Molla, "Withdraw this bill because I will submit it next week to the ministerial legislative committee." Molla refused, and Yishai said, "Shas will promote anything to solve the housing crisis. It's a pity that Kadima is running after headlines and ignoring the public."

Even though Netanyahu beat back Molla's initiative, this evening, he is convening a special meeting with Atias and Steinitz to try to come up with additional solutions for the housing shortage and expediting housing starts. Atias will apparently demand a 50% cut in land prices in rental tenders, and higher reductions in the periphery. He has been urging this proposal for months in the face of fierce objections by the Ministry of Finance.

Netanyahu is also apparently trying to find solutions for high rents, one of the main causes of the tent protests. Activists have set up hundreds of tents in city centers across the country, including on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, to pressure the government to find housing solutions.

The protestors in the Tel Aviv tent town have scheduled a press conference this evening, after Netanyahu's meeting to respond to whatever emerges from it.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on July 20, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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