It's no secret that real estate prices in Israel are high and rising. For nearly a decade, Israeli governments have tried numerous ideas to bring prices down – but it seems that no matter what they do, prices continue to rise.
The problem, according to many experts, is simply that not enough affordable homes and apartments are being built. With land prices in cities in the center of the country constantly rising, and the Israel Lands Administration reluctant to release too much land to developers at one time, more creative solutions are needed.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel has suggested an idea of his own, which is sure to divide opinions. Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee Wednesday, Ariel suggested building more homes in communities in Judea and Samaria that are in commuting distance of the Tel Aviv area.
“Towns like Bet Aryeh, Ofarim, and Elkanah, all in Western Samaria, are integral parts of the center of the country,” Ariel said, and land prices there are substantially lower than in nearby cities like Petach Tikvah and Kfar Sava. Homes built in communities like these would be “easy sales” for residents of the crowded cities of the Dan region in central Israel, and would be substantially more affordable as well.
Ariel is ready to immediately begin marketing some 10,000 housing units in Judea, Samaria, and areas of Jerusalem liberated in the Six-Day War. In recent interviews, Ariel has said that all the paperwork is done and all the permits for these homes have been issued; the one thing missing, he said, is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's signature. “We are building all over Judea and Samaria according to plans that were approved two years ago," Ariel said in the interview with Radio Tel Aviv, adding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had ordered him to freeze construction in these areas.
Not building in Jerusalem is a mistake, Ariel said, because Jerusalem needed more Jews to maintain a proper demographic balance – while not building in Judea and Samaria is also a mistake, because such construction could help bring down prices.
Supporting Ariel during the discussion was fellow Bayit Yehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky, who said that “solutions to the housing crisis without including Judea and Samaria in the occasion are useless.”