Housing starts sank during the first half of 2012 in most areas of Israel – except for in Haifa and Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday. While housing starts were down an average of 5.9% throughout the country, they were up 25.9% in Jerusalem, and a whopping 141.5% in Judea and Samaria.
Construction started on a total of 20,630 homes between January and July of 2013, the CBS said, for an annualized number of about 41,000 homes, significantly fewer than the 50,000 homes needed at minimum to satisfy the needs of new households and immigrants. The figures were part of an ongoing slowing of construction that began in 2011, the CBS said.
The slowdown was most pronounced in the center of the country, where starts fell by 24.8% from a year previous, and especially in Tel Aviv, where starts fell by nearly 30%. Haifa saw an increase of 13.4% in starts, but Jerusalem did better, with a 25.9% increase.
However, it was in Judea and Samaria that the largest increase in starts was reported. During the first half of 2012, construction began on some 605 homes, but a year later, than figure was 1,461 – an increase of 141.5%. On average, it takes about two years for a home to go from start to completion, and communities where the homes are being built are preparing for a significant boost to their population numbers.
Observers said that there were several reasons for the mass interest in communities in the region, including higher quality of life than in Israel's large coastal cities, and pent-up demand after recent building freezes and slowdowns imposed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Housing Ministry said in a statement that even though housing starts were down, there were close to 90,000 homes currently under construction throughout Israel – a 16-year high. “To a major extent, housing starts reflect the activity of local authorities in granting permits for building,” the Ministry said. “A lack of permits, along with manpower shortages in the building industry, are the main reasons for the slowdown in housing starts.
“In order to increase the number of starts, the Ministry, along with the Israel Lands Administration, will be increasing the rate at which land will be available for construction, and local authorities need to be prepared for this,” the Ministry said, adding that it was also taking steps to recruit more construction workers.